Supplemental oxygen attenuates the increase in wound bacterial growth during simulated aeromedical evacuation in goats

Ryan E. Earnest, Dennis I. Sonnier, Amy T. Makley, Eric M. Campion, Joseph C. Wenke, Stephanie R. Bailey, Warren C. Dorlac, Alex B. Lentsch, Timothy A. Pritts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Bacterial growth in soft tissue and open fractures is a known risk factor for tissue loss and complications in contaminated musculoskeletal wounds. Current care for battlefield casualties with soft tissue and musculoskeletal wounds includes tactical and strategic aeromedical evacuation (AE). This exposes patients to a hypobaric, hypoxic environment. In this study, we sought to determine whether exposure to AE alters bacterial growth in contaminated complex musculoskeletal wounds and whether supplemental oxygen had any effect on wound infections during simulated AE. METHODS: A caprine model of a contaminated complex musculoskeletal wound was used. Complex musculoskeletal wounds were created and inoculated with bioluminescent Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Goats were divided into three experimental groups: ground control, simulated AE, and simulated AE with supplemental oxygen. Simulated AE was induced in a hypobaric chamber pressurized to 8,800 feet for 7 hours. Bacterial luminescence was measured using a photon counting camera at three time points: preflight (20 hours postsurgery), postflight (7 hours from preflight and 27 hours postsurgery), and necropsy (24 hours from preflight and 44 hours postsurgery). RESULTS: There was a significant increase in bacterial growth in the AE group compared with the ground control group measured postflight and at necropsy. Simulated AE induced hypoxia with oxygen saturation less than 93%. Supplemental oxygen corrected the hypoxia and significantly reduced bacterial growth in wounds at necropsy. CONCLUSIONS: Hypoxia induced during simulated AE enhances bacterial growth in complex musculoskeletal wounds which can be prevented with the application of supplemental oxygen to the host.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)80-86
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Altitude; infection; transport; casualty care.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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