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Delayed Radiation Injury

It is expected that 1.7 million people will be diagnosed with cancer in 2016. About 50% of these will receive radiation as part of their treatment plan.  While radiation treatments are designed to target only the cancer cells, healthy tissues surrounding the treatment area are often affected. Radiation unfortunately can damage blood vessels in the adjacent tissues producing a condition called obliterating endarteritis, or inflammation of the inner lining of the blood vessels. These blood vessels become occluded and hardened and gradually cause the area to become hypoxic, hypovascular, and hypocellular.

When an injury occurs in the irradiated area, whether by a trauma, surgical procedure, or infection, the tissue’s ability to repair itself is compromised.  Any tissue that has been exposed to radiation may be at risk for future problems.   

Osteoradionecrosis, or ORN, is a complication that may develop in patients that have radiation treatment for head and neck cancers.  ORN may occur after trauma to the mandible, as in tooth extractions, periodontal procedures, or cancer surgeries, but it may also occur unexpectedly.  Patients may experience pain, swelling, trismus, bone exposure, malocclusion, and oral cutaneous fistulas.

HBOT can be used in patients at risk for ORN prior to planned tooth extractions to help prevent ORN.  For patients with existing ORN, HBOT may help repair the damage to the mandible (jaw) from the radiation by delivering 100% oxygen and stimulating angiogenesis in the affected area.

Hemorrhagic Cystitis is a condition that may cause pain, incontinence, and bleeding in the urinary bladder.  Radiation of the bladder is one cause for this painful condition.  HBOT allows more oxygen to reach these damaged tissues and stimulate new blood vessel growth which enhances the body’s own ability to heal itself. 

Radiation proctitis or enteritis is another condition that may result from radiation treatment. Radiation proctitis occurs in the rectum and radiation enteritis occurs in the intestines.

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