What is topical oxygen (Topox), and how does it compare to hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT)?

Updated: Nov 16, 2020
  • Author: Emi Latham, MD, FACEP, FAAEM, UHM; Chief Editor: Zab Mosenifar, MD, FACP, FCCP  more...
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Two other types of chambers are worth mentioning, although they are not considered HBOT.

Topical oxygen, or Topox, is administered through a small chamber that is placed over an extremity and pressurized with oxygen. The patient does not breathe the oxygen, nor is the remainder of the body pressurized. Therefore, the patient cannot benefit from most of the positive effects of HBOT, which are systemic or occur at a level deeper than topical oxygen can penetrate (see Hyperbaric Physics and Physiology section below). Topox is based on the concept that oxygen diffuses through tissue at a depth of 30-50 microns. [4] This method does not treat DCS, arterial gas emboli (AGE), or carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

Another problem with Topox is the design of the unit. A pressure differential must be created between the machine and open atmosphere to compress the machine. In order to keep the extremity from being pushed out of the pressurized machine, the cuff of the box must fit very tightly around the extremity, thereby creating a tourniquetlike effect. Topox is not covered by insurance, nor is it endorsed by the journal Diabetes Care for the treatment of foot ulcers. [5]

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