Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for the treatment of radiation-induced sequelae in children: The University of Pennsylvania experience

  1. Hani L. Ashamalla M.D., 
  2. Stephen R. Thom M.D., Ph.D., 
  3. Joel W. Goldwein M.D.



The role of hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) therapy in the treatment of radiation-related sequelae in adults is well known. In contrast, its role in the management of radiation-related sequelae in children has not been well studied. In an effort to define its value better, the authors reviewed the University of Pennsylvania experience and hereby report the results of their analysis.


Between 1989 and 1994, ten patients who underwent radiation therapy for cancer as children were referred for HBO therapy. Six patients underwent HBO therapy as a prophylactic measure prior to maxillofacial procedures: dental extractions and/or root canals (four patients), bilateral coronoidectomies for mandibular ankylosis (one patient), and wound dehiscence (one patient). Therapeutic HBO was administered to four other patients: one patient for vasculitis resulting in acute seventh cranial nerve palsy and the other three after sequestrectomy for osteoradionecrosis (mastoid bone, temporal bone, and sacrum, respectively). Osteoradionecrosis was diagnosed both radiologically and histologically after exclusion of tumor recurrence. The number of treatments ranged between 9–40 “dives” (median, 30 dives). Treatments were given once daily at 2 atmosphere absolutes for 2 hours each. Adjunctive therapy in the form of debridement, antibiotics, and placement of tympanotomy tubes was administered to two patients. Ages at HBO treatment ranged from 3.5 to 26 years (median, 14 years). Six patients were male and four were female. The most commonly irradiated site was the head and neck region (eight patients; brain stem gliomas [one], posterior fossa primitive neuroectodermal tumor [one], rhabdomyosarcomas [three], nasopharyngeal cancer [one], carcinoma of the parotid gland [one], and Hodgkin’s disease [one]). The remaining two patients received radiation therapy for pelvic tumors (Ewings’s sarcoma and rhabdomyosarcoma). Radiation doses ranged between 4000 and 6660 centigray (cGy) (median, 5500 cGy). The interval between the end of radiation therapy and HBO treatment ranged between 2 months and 11 years (median, 1.5 years). The median follow-up interval after HBO therapy was 2.5 years (range, 2 months–4 years).


Except for two patients who had initial anxiety, nausea, and vomiting, the HBO treatments were well tolerated. In all but one patient, the outcome was excellent. In the six patients who had prophylactic HBO, all continued to demonstrate complete healing of their orthodontal scars at last follow-up. In the four patients who received HBO as a therapeutic modality, all 4 had documented disappearance of signs and symptoms of radionecrosis and two patients demonstrated new bone growth on follow-up computed tomography scan. One patient with vasculitis and seventh cranial nerve palsy had transient improvement of hearing; however, subsequent audiograms returned to baseline.


The use of hyperbaric oxygen for children with radiation-induced bone and soft tissue complications is safe and results in few significant adverse effects. It is a potentially valuable tool both in the prevention and treatment of radiation-related complications. Cancer 1996;77:2407-12.

Source: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/(SICI)1097-0142(19960601)77:11%3C2407::AID-CNCR33%3E3.0.CO;2-Z/pdf