Chronic hypoxia of a wound and periwound tissues is known to impede wound healing by impairing collagen formation, angiogenesis and epithelialization. Hypoxia also lowers a wounds resistance to infection (Stotts et al. 2007). Oxygen supply to chronic wounds has been augmented by treatment with systemic (hyperbaric) oxygen therapy or through a less studied modality, topical oxygen therapy (Stotts et al. 2007; Kalliainen et al. 2003). No controlled studies have examined the efficacy of hyperbaric oxygen on the healing of pressure ulcers (Houghton & Campbell 2007; Consortium of Spinal Cord Medicine 2000; Houghton et al. 2013). Kalliainen et al. (2003) studied topical oxygen and its effects on the healing of chronic wounds, some of which were noted to be pressure ulcers but the exact number was not reported. Among 58 wounds, 38 (65.5%) healed during treatment with topical oxygen alone but pressure ulcers were included in wounds found to be least responsive to topical oxygen.
In one very small, pre-post study of three patients, Banks and Ho (2008) demonstrated that when topical oxygen (EpiFLO device) was applied to stage IV pelvic pressure ulcers, comparison of pre- and post-treatment linear measurements showed 49%, 48% and 31% improvement, respectively, for each patient. While a positive effect was shown, more research is needed to determine the role of topical oxygen therapy as an adjunctive therapy for the healing of pressure ulcers post SCI.
There is level 4 evidence (from one pre-post study; Banks & Ho 2008) that topical oxygen therapy may improve healing of pressure ulcers post SCI.
- Use of topical oxygen therapy may have a positive association with healing of pressure ulcers post SCI but more research is needed.