Objective: To evaluate the clinical usefulness of hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) therapy for neurosurgical infections after craniotomy or laminectomy.
Methods: The study involved review of medical records, office visits, and telephone contacts for 39 consecutive patients who were referred in 1996 to 2000. Infection control and healing without removal of bone flaps or foreign material, with a minimum of 6 months of follow-up monitoring, were considered to represent success.
Results: Successful results were achieved for 27 of 36 patients, with a mean follow-up period of 27 months (range, 6-58 mo). One patient discontinued HBO therapy because of claustrophobia, and two could not be evaluated because of death resulting from tumor recurrence. In Group 1 (uncomplicated cranial wound infections), 12 of 15 patients achieved healing with retention of bone flaps. In Group 2 (complicated cranial wound infections, with risk factors such as malignancy, radiation injury, repeated surgery, or implants), all except one infection resolved; three of four bone flaps and three of six acrylic cranioplasties could be retained. In Group 3 (spinal wound infections), all infections resolved, five of seven without removal of fixation systems. There were no major side effects of HBO treatment.
Conclusion: HBO treatment is an alternative to standard surgical removal of infected bone flaps and is particularly useful in complex situations. It can improve outcomes, reduce the need for reoperations, and allow infection control without mandatory removal of foreign material. HBO therapy is a safe, powerful treatment for postoperative cranial and spinal wound infections, it seems cost-effective, and it should be included in the neurosurgical armamentarium.