Longterm radiation damage

Longterm radiation damage

What is longterm radiation damage?

Be aware of the possible longterm effects of radiation

Pain, swelling, redness, feeling of tightness, also chronic wounds and ulcers can all be longterm effects of radiation. The time period in which these effects can be observed lies between 30 days and 30 years after commencement of radiotherapy.

• Breast cancer: longterm effects occur not only on the skin surface, rather in 30% of women  there is a feeling of breast organ irritation. Without treatment this inflammation can lead to vascular changes. The results of this include hardening of tissue, open wounds and breast shrinkage.
• Pelvic tumours: depending on the area subjected to radiation and the depth of the radiation treatment, the bladder (bleeding of the bladder) for example, or the rectum (diarrhoea, bleeding, pain) can be affected by longterm radiation damage.
• Tumours on the brain /in the throat area: skin or mucous membrane ulcers in the mouth cavity, on the face or in the throat are also attributed to longterm radiation damage as are wounds, which don't heal after a tooth is pulled out in the radiotherapy treated area and a dry mouth due to a lack of saliva.

How does longterm radiation damage occur?

Radiotherapy is supposed to reach as many malignant cells as possible. Radiotherapy can also affect healthy, adjacent tissue and possibly damage the cells. The small blood vessels, the connective tissue, the lower jaw bones as well as the intestinal and bladder mucosa are particularly sensitive to radiation. The blood vessels frequently ignite and occlude after radiation. This results in a depletion of blood capillaries to about 20-30% of the normal density.  If the tissue is additionally injured (eg removal of teeth, post-operative procedures, abrasive prostheses) or after an infection, the resulting poor oxygen supply leads to open sores or permanently damaged tissues. A chronic wound then develops, which can only heal very slowly or not at all – a problem wound. Such a wound needs urgent oxygen to regenerate and to decompose the bacteria.

Efficacy of HBO therapy

HBO therapy is a form of treatment whereby the patients inhale medically pure hyperbaric oxygen (HBO = hyperbaric oxygenation). In a hermetically sealed chamber, pressure is increased from 1.5 - 3 times the normal atmospheric pressure. Normally, the oxygen in the air binds itself to the red blood cells and is transported from the blood stream to the tissues. The diseased or injured organism can only maintain this oxygen supply to a limited extent and the oxygen is unable to penetrate the tissues sufficiently. Under the conditions of HBO therapy, the oxygen is absorbed by the blood serum, as well as by the red blood corpuscles.  As a result, the penetration depth of the oxygen into the tissue is increased by up to 4 times, and the tissue which has been damaged under normal conditions is again supplied with sufficient oxygen.

The efficacy:

• Preservation of organ function
• Optimal blood flow due to decongestant effect
• Reinforcement and acceleration of wound healing
• Supporting new formation of blood vessels
• Supporting coagulation and defence processes
• Pathogens partially killed 

The individual therapy

Together with your doctor, the pressure chamber doctor will work out a treatment programme specifically for your medical conditions. Doctors and patient work “hand in hand”. The patient should comply with any lifestyle and medication recommendations by the treating physician. The HBO therapy ensures wound healing with the enrichment of oxygen in the tissue. 

The patient as the most important part of the healing process

• drink a lot of fluids (i.e. mineral water, tea), at least 2-3 litres a day
• alcohol (beer, wine, spirits) and cigarettes drastically shrink the effectiveness of the HBO treatment or render it ineffective.
• collaboration necessary between patient, doctor and HBO doctor

Timely start of HBO therapy important

If a wound hasn’t healed after 30 days of consistent treatment, then the HBO therapy needs to  be started. Further complications in the wound or the bladder area, for example, can be prevented or reduced. An HBO treatment is useful before operations are performed in radiation treated areas because, according to experience, the surgical wounds in these areas tend to heal badly.

Talk to your doctor about hyperbaric oxygen therapy. We are happy to provide you with further information and scientific publications.

Reimbursement of costs

Private health insurance companies and the benefits office make their decisions according to individual requirements of the insured person.  As a rule the costs are met. They are based on the statutory scale of medical fees for physicians (GOÄ).
Statutory health insurance companies pay for the treatment only in exceptional individual cases. Before each treatment, we prepare a detailed cost estimate. Treatment is usually started after cost clarification and medical examinations have been carried out.


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