A recently published medical trial, the international Hyperbaric Oxygen Radiation Tissue Injury Study (HORTIS), looked at the use of hyperbaric oxygen for patients affected by radiation proctitis (radiation injury to the large bowel) after being treated for cancers of the lower abdominal or pelvic region.
Although a relatively uncommon side effect; 5-10 % of patients may develop long-term bowel problems which include symptoms such as bowel bleeding, frequency, diarrhea, excessive gas, and pain. These symptoms may occur months and occasionally years after the radiotherapy has been completed and regrettably, up until now, the management of this problem has often been unsatisfactory.
HBO had been used previously for this condition and the existing reports appeared promising. Unfortunately prior studies were not achieved using modern standards of medical evidence. This created doubt among physicians as to its efficacy and relegated this potentially beneficial treatment to medical obscurity.
However, unlike previous trials, the HORTIS study used rigorous standards (a randomized, doubleblind, crossover trial with long-term follow-up) to test the potential effectiveness of HBO in relieving the disabling symptoms of radiation proctitis. The study tracked the patient’s physical as well as social/emotional improvements.
Data on the 120 patients entered into the trial is ongoing but at this stage there is strong evidence that a course of 30-40 daily hyperbaric sessions significantly improves both the physical and social/emotional aspects of patients suffering from radiation proctitis. This improvement appears to be long-lasting as the 2 year follow-up shows even better results than those reported immediately at the conclusion of the HBO treatment.
For a more detailed look at the HORTIS results please refer directly to the journal article in the 2008 International Journal of Radiation Biology Physics
Vol. 72 pages 137-146.
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