Poor quality, non-random evidence only to support or refute the use of hyperbaric oxygen for necrotising infections


Clinical Bottom Line:

1. Better evidence required to support or refute the use of hyperbaric oxygen

Citation: Faunø Thrane J, Ovesen T. Scarce evidence of efficacy of hyperbaric oxygen therapy in necrotizing soft tissue infection: a systematic review. Infectious Diseases. 2019 Jul 3;51(7):485-92.


Necrotizing soft tissue infection (NSTI) is a rare and potentially life-threatening disease. Rapid surgical intervention, antibiotics and intensive care are the mainstay of treatment. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is used as adjuvant therapy in some centres but there is a lack of research-based evidence of efficacy.


Following the PRISMA guideline we conducted a systematic review on the efficacy of HBOT on NSTI with mortality as primary outcome. Through January 2019 major databases were searched and relevant literature assessed. The criteria for study inclusion were research of any design and any period of time comparing HBOT vs. non-HBOT in a population of NSTI-patients. Studies were analysed using the modified Delphi method and risk of bias in non-randomized studies – of interventions tool. Relative risk (RR) on mortality was calculated for each study individually.


A number of 1733 studies were identified through database search. Ultimately, 21 studies were included of which 19 were case series with a control group. The majority of the studies performed poor in quality assessment and all featured a high to critical risk of bias. The association of HBOT on mortality was generally reported as positive, however, the results should be considered with great scepticism.


The evidence of HBOT in NSTI is poor and biased. There is a strong need for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to shed light on a potential life-saving treatment.

Expiry date: October 2025