In April of 2000, Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Center acquired the first hyperbaric oxygen chamber designed specifically for horses, thus becoming the first veterinary hospital to offer hyperbaric therapy to equine patients in the United States. The chamber, manufactured by Equine Oxygen Therapy of Lexington, Kentucky, consists of a pressurized cylinder large enough to hold two horses at a time, in which the patient immerses in an enriched oxygen environment at approximately two times normal atmospheric pressure for the duration of the treatment. This environment promotes an increase in tissue oxygenation by as much as 13 times the normal level.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) has been used in human medicine for over a decade, only now have we started to collect data on the beneficial effects it also has on our animal patients. Some of the effects of HBOT include the antibacterial activity of oxygen on certain anaerobic microorganisms and enhanced white blood cell activity, reduction of tissue edema, maintains tissue oxygenation in cases of decreased hemoglobin content in the blood, stimulates fibroblast activity and collagen deposition, thus enhancing wound healing and also stimulates growth of capillary beds into injured tissues, to name a few. During its first year at Alamo Pintado, the applications of our HBOT chamber grew to include such diseases as:
• Osteomyelitis (bone infections)
• Desmitis and tendonitis (injury to ligaments and tendons)
• Post-surgical wounds and wounds that were slow to heal
• Thermal burns and smoke inhalation
• Rhabdomyolisis (tying-up)
• Head trauma, peripheral nerve trauma
• Anaerobic infections
• Intestinal surgeries (normalizes function post-surgery)
• Tissue necrosis due to rattlesnake and spider bites
• Enhanced recovery from athletic performance
These are just a few of the applications that HBOT has found in equine medicine. As more research is done and more information becomes available, the use of HBOT will broaden to take its place as a valid medical therapeutic option for more and more of our patients. At Alamo Pintado, our chamber is used daily by our trained staff and it is available to our clients and for referral appointments.