Background. The accepted treatment protocol for necrotizing fasciitis (NF) consists of extensive surgery and wide spectrum antibiotics. Hyperbaric oxygenation (HBO) has been recommended as adjuvant therapy for NF, improving patient mortality and outcome. However, the beneficial effect of HBO for NF remains controversial. Methods. A retrospective evaluation of treatment outcome in 37 patients treated for NF between 1984 and 1993 was carried out. The mortality rate, morbidity criteria, and risk factors for grave prognosis were compared between a group of 25 patients who received HBO as part of their treatment protocol and a group of the remaining 12 patients treated by surgical excision and antibiotics alone. Results. The two groups were found to be similar with regard to age, gender, the incidence of individual risk factors for ominous prognosis, and the Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation (APACHE) II score for disease's severity on presentation. The mortality rate among the HBO-treated patients was 36%, as opposed to 25% in the non-HBO group. The mean number of surgical débridements required per patient was significantly higher in the HBO group: 3.3 compared with 1.5 in the non-HBO-treated patients. Although the average length of hospitalization for survivors was shorter for the HBO group, the difference between the groups did not reach statistical significance. Conclusions. The results of this study cast doubt on the suggested advantage of HBO in reducing patient mortality and morbidity when used as adjuvant therapy for NF.
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