Radiation Burn Treatment and Wound Care

wound care after radiation therapy

If you’ve endured radiation therapy in the past, you know exactly how intense and invasive radiation therapy feels, not just during treatment but long after as well. Even if your radiation treatment concluded months ago, you could still be coping with old side effects and noticing new complications.

Perhaps you’re in a constant state of pain from radiation burns and tissue damage, or maybe your bladder control is diminishing. The complications of radiation therapy are frustrating, painful, and often embarrassing, but they shouldn’t define your life and your health!

What Are the Most Common Types of Radiation Burns & Injuries?

Everything from your age at the time of radiation to the type of cancer treated can influence your radiation injuries, but certain wounds are most common for all patients.

Radiation Burns

Radiation damage becomes visible as burns and ulcers on the body. Radiation burns occur soon after treatment, but due to the body’s reduced capacity to heal, skin damage can last for months or years without proper intervention. This is especially true since radiation treatments are scheduled in quick succession, limiting the skin’s opportunity to heal and repair between doses.

Radiation wounds are so common that about 85% of radiation patients experience moderate-to-severe burns during and after treatment. Symptoms can vary and usually become worse over time:

  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Peeling and flaking
  • Soreness and swelling
  • Moistness and blistering
  • Pigmentation changes

Unfortunately, radiation damage to the skin doesn’t stop with burns. If exposed skin peels away faster than it can grow back, radiation ulcers develop. These wounds feel like burns, but they are non-healing ulcers that increase your risk of infection.

Weak and Broken Bones

Radiation is so potent that it can weaken the bones and cause osteoporosis and osteonecrosis. Since bones are living and growing organisms, radiation harms their active cells and stunts their strength. The ribs in your chest or bones in your leg may become far more vulnerable to fractures and breaks.

Bowel and Bladder Dysfunction

Just like radiation harms cells in your bones, it also affects the cells in your bowel and bladder. Blood vessels become fragile and bleed easily. Swelling can also cause the urethra to narrow. 

As a result, you might experience blood in your urine, reduced bladder control, sexual dysfunction, and interruptions to your daily routine after radiation treatment. 

What Types of Cancer & Radiation Injuries Does R3 Wound Care Treat?

  • Compromised Skin Flaps
  • Soft Tissue Radionecrosis
  • Mohs Surgery
  • Jaw, Face, or Mouth Surgery After Radiation
  • Radiation Tissue Injury After Mastectomy
  • Cystitis
  • Proctitis
  • Bowel Injury/Bleeding After Radiation
  • Surgical Wounds
  • Dehisced Wounds
  • Wounds That Are Worsening
  • Wounds That Are Not Healing After Surgery for Skin Cancer or Biopsy
  • Diabetics with Wounds/Surgical Wounds
  • Wounds with Drainage (Needing Wound Vac)
  • Plastic Surgery/Mastectomies
  • Painful, Chronic, or Infected wounds
  • ANY Wound, No Matter How Large or Small
wound care after radiation injuries

What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Radiation Burns and Wounds?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) makes it possible to minimize and even reverse your radiation burn or other wound symptoms. It uses 100% oxygen at pressures above regular atmospheric pressure to stream oxygen through your bloodstream.

Radiation triggers vascular changes that deprive the cells in your body of the essential oxygen they need to function and thrive. This oxygen deprivation plays a role in the development of delayed radiation injuries, which means that HBOT can reduce and reverse these health problems.

HBOT delivers the concentrated oxygen needed for wound care after radiation therapy. Pressurized oxygen dissolves directly into all of the body’s fluids so that it can thoroughly permeate the areas lacking oxygen after radiation.

HBOT for Radiation Burn Treatment

HBOT is proven to optimize the pressure of tissue oxygen and is now used clinically in the treatment of chronic ulcers and radiation burn wound care.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) makes it possible to accelerate healing in your radiation wound. It uses concentrated 100% oxygen at pressures above regular atmospheric pressure to push oxygen through your bloodstream.

By adding more oxygen into the bloodstream, HBOT helps overcome the vascular changes triggered by excessive radiation exposure. Pressurized oxygen dissolves directly into the body’s fluids and is delivered efficiently to all of the cells and tissues previously strangled and damaged by the effects of radiation. 

This essential benefit of hyperbaric wound care stimulates and supports the body’s own healing process. When white blood cells receive enough oxygen, they can effectively kill bacteria, reduce swelling, and allow the rapid reproduction of new blood vessels. HBOT even enables cells to build new connective tissue and improve organ function.

HBOT for Breast Cancer and Post-Mastectomy Patients

In many cases, breast cancer patients may have to undergo a mastectomy and breast reconstruction, along with radiation therapy. 

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy offers significant benefits to post-mastectomy patients. HBOT helps improve the appearance of post-mastectomy incisions, reduce swelling and bruising (if treatment is conducted soon enough after surgery), reduce post-op pain, and improve your overall recovery from surgery and anesthesia.

It’s also important to note that attempting a breast reconstruction with damaged, radiated tissue can decrease your chances of healing quickly. In fact, 30% of patients undergoing breast reconstruction immediately after a mastectomy develop partial loss of skin flap viability.

Undergoing HBOT after a mastectomy but prior to breast reconstruction allows the radiated tissue to regrow blood vessels, return to a normal state, and heal once operated on. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can help reduce inflammation to the tissue while saturating it in oxygen and supercharging its regrowth.

Ultimately, HBOT enhances your healing and gives you your life back sooner.

What Should You Expect During HBOT for Radiation Wounds?

Hyperbaric therapy used to create an unpleasant experience using small chambers that felt more like coffins than medical treatments. However, today’s HBOT technology is so advanced that it’s a relaxing and enjoyable experience — especially when you visit a practice committed entirely to hyperbaric medicine like R3 Wound Care and Hyperbarics.

When you visit R3, you receive HBOT in a private setting with the latest hyperbaric technology. Your treatment takes place in a clear acrylic chamber where you can comfortably recline and view your surroundings at all times. You’ll be able to hear and speak to your treatment team as they monitor your entire procedure.

Like most effective medical treatments, HBOT delivers optimal results through a series of treatments. The experienced team at R3 recommends sessions five days a week when possible, though it’s not required. Daily treatments help maintain high oxygen levels in the body and produce the best outcomes.

Expert Wound Care for Radiation Burn Treatment

R3 is committed to fulfilling the need for high-quality outpatient wound care administered in a comfortable, comforting environment. Our advanced HBOT technology and highly skilled professionals deliver maximized results that improve your health and quality of life. 

Ready to explore the benefits of HBOT for radiation burn wound care, radiation ulcer treatment, or any other radiation injury?

Find an R3 Wound Care & Hyperbarics location near you or contact us to schedule an appointment.