Radiation tissue damage

Radiation injury to tissues (radionecrosis, radiation necrosis, osteoradionecrosis) is a complication or "side effect" of radiation therapy for a tumor. This occurs because the radiation can damage normal cells as well a tumor cells. Destruction of nutrient blood vessels in the irradiated area can result in local poor or non-healing wounds (ulceration), destruction of bone (necrosis) and bleeding.

Radiation therapy for pelvic or abdominal tumors may result in bleeding or other symptoms. Bleeding from the bladder (radiation cystitis), small bowel (radiation enteritis) or rectum (radiation proctitis) are the most common complications. Symptoms of frequency, urgency, pain, incontinence and diarrhea may be experienced as well.

Radiation treatments for head and neck cancer can cause long term damage (necrosis) to the jaws, teeth and throat. Local non-healing wounds (ulceration) and decaying teeth (dental carries) are the most common side effects but may also include difficulty eating or swallowing, dry mouth or hoarseness.

Hyperbaric oxygen (HBO2) is effective treatment for radiation tissue injury. Since the 1970s, surgeons of the head and neck region have come to recognize the value of hyperbaric oxygen treatments in treating radiation therapy damage of the jaw bone. Hyperbaric oxygen has had some of its most dramatic successes in treating or preventing damage to the jaw bone and is the treatment of choice for osteoradionecrosis. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has also been used to treat radiation therapy damage of the brain, muscle and other soft tissues of the face and throat as well.

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