I was recently asked this question:
I broke my hip. Because of my relatively young age, the doctors decided to pin the femoral head to the neck instead of doing a replacement. My question: Are there treatments which will speed the recovery? (I have access to oxygen.)”
My response was as follows:
“Sorry to hear about the accident. The following reviews suggest that hyperbaric oxygen treatment (HBOT) is of no real benefit in bone healing in humans:
1. Best evidence topic report. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy in acute fracture management. Butler J, Foex B. Emerg Med J. 2006 Jul;23(7):571-2. Review.
2. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for promoting fracture healing and treating fracture non-union., Bennett MH, Stanford R, Turner R. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005 Jan 25;(1):CD004712. Review.”
The inquirer wanted to pursue the subject and wrote me back:
“I did do some research on my own and found some studies using cats where bone graft growth was faster under hyperbaric O2 treatment. I followed up with DAN and they said that while there’s no question that hyperbaric O2 will deliver more oxygen to the affected bone, bone growth under those conditions would be ‘different’. My feeling is I’d better just do ‘normal’ treatment, but I wonder if taking hits off my O2 pony reg will be helpful by itself?”
As is supported by the research reviews I cited earlier, I reiterated:
“There is no compelling reason to believe breathing O2 off one’s pony reg will speed healing following a bone graft.”
Apparently becoming slightly irked at this position, the inquirer wrote back:
“I don’t know why you’d think it not helpful. More O2 means more O2 in the bloodstream, which means more delivered to the injury site.”
Attempting to keep my equanimity, I replied:
“I think it won’t be helpful because in the healthy individual with normal respiratory and hematological function, oxygen saturation is >95% at rest. The empirical evidence indicates that increasing the percentage of circulating 02 by a minuscule amount is not going to significantly speed bone healing. In order to promote a meaningful increase in 02 perfusion, HBOT must be used.
Moreover, hyperbaric oxygen treatment typically involves 100% 02 administered at 1 1/2 – 3 ATA for 90 – 120 minutes per session over multiple sessions. It would be very difficult to reproduce these conditions breathing off a pony bottle.”
The message? The diver is not going to materially affect the speed of healing of bone, or of any other kind of damaged tissue, simply by sitting and breathing 02 from his cylinder.