Gas gangrene is an acute and rapidly progressive infection of the soft tissues. The infection is caused by one of the bacteria in the “clostridia” family. Clostridium is bacteria normally found in the gastrointestinal tract and the infection can sometimes originate from there. The source can also be from outside the body, such as a wound caused by traumatic injury.
Gas gangrene infection is serious and typically spreads quickly. The bacteria reproduce rapidly and produce toxic substances. These toxic substances destroy the surrounding tissues. An advancing gas gangrene infection can destroy healthy tissue in its path and spread over a matter of hours.
Hyperbaric oxygen works to expose the clostridia bacteria, which normally thrive in a low oxygen environment, to very high amounts of oxygen and hampers the bacteria’s ability to reproduce, spread and make more toxins.
Repeated hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatments help to slow the progress of the infection, while surgery to remove affected tissue and antibiotics control it. Using hyperbaric oxygen therapy, along with surgery and antibiotics provides an advantage of saving more healthy tissue and perhaps resulting in less limb loss. Gas gangrene is a life and limb threatening infection which is treated within a hospital setting.