Intracranial Abscess

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Approval Status

Yes Clearance by US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Yes Approval by the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society (UHMS)

About Clearance and Approval


Definition and Causes

An intracranial abscess is an accumulation of pus and other matter within the skull. Depending on the location of the abscess and the severity of inflammation and swelling, pressure against the brain may cause mild or severe neurologic symptoms, coma, or death. Early diagnosis and treatment are key to survival.

Infections of the brain and skull may be caused by a number of different bacteria, in a single strain or mixed, originating within the body, in dental or sinus infections, in chronic or traumatic wounds, or from foreign matter. Some of the most common bacterial species are listed among Related Terms on this page. Viruses, fungi, parasites, protozoa, and other microbial organisms may also cause intracranial abscess. Children with congenital heart disease and people with compromised immune systems due to chronic disease, cancer therapy, HIV, AIDS, and immunosuppressive drugs after organ transplantation face higher risk.

Evidence Index

FDA cleared, widely reimbursed
Strong body of evidence
Repeatedly favorable results
Early or mixed results
Unfavorable or no evidence
Strong evidence against HBOT

Treatment with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is used as an adjunct to surgery and antibiotic therapy for intracranial abscess. The bacteria involved in brain abscess are mainly anaerobic, meaning they thrive in low-oxygen environments. HBOT inhibits anaerobic and some other bacteria from replicating, spreading, and releasing damaging toxins. Hyperbaric oxygen may also help reduce brain swelling, boost the effect of antibiotics, and enhance the body’s natural defenses against bacteria and other microbial organisms.

Hyperbaric oxygen may be especially useful for multiple abscesses in deep or dominant locations, in patients with immune compromise, and when the infection does not respond well to traditional surgery and antibiotics. UHMS guidelines recommend daily or twice-daily treatment of 60-90 minutes at 2.0 to 2.5 atmospheres of absolute pressure (ATA).

Read the page Intracranial Abscess in the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society resource library to learn more about intracranial abscess, the rationale for hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and key clinical evidence, outcomes, and success factors.

HyperbaricLink Commentary

Brain abscesses are deadly serious but much less fatal (10%-30%) since the advent of computed tomography (CT) imaging devices, CT-guided surgical techniques (needle aspiration), and improved microbiology testing and antibiotic regimens. Like osteomyelitis and necrotizing infections, brain abscesses involve some rather frightening germs. As antibiotics and other traditional weapons against these worrisome microscopic invaders begin to weaken, HBOT provides a vital backstop. The mechanisms at work here also greatly interest researchers investigating hyperbaric oxygen for traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Patient Resources

HyperbaricLink recommends the following websites for anyone seeking authoritative information, patient advocacy, and community support for intracranial abscess.


A service of the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, MedlinePlus offers plenty of helpful links from its easy-to-read article on intracranial abscess.

Partnering to Heal
US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) offers healthcare professionals and patients and families an excellent interactive video program about preventing healthcare-associated infections (HAIs).

Clinical Resources

Start with the following resources to explore current research activities and the peer-reviewed medical literature on hyperbaric oxygen therapy for intracranial abscess.

 Use the search buttons below to go directly to research on hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
US National Institutes of Health keeps the official list of human clinical trials currently enrolling, in progress, and recently completed. One may reasonably question the size and legitimacy of any study not listed here.


Google Scholar

A specialized Google search engine, Google Scholar indexes scholarly articles, patents, and legal opinions and journals. Google Scholar may produce many search results, but entries provide easy access to full-text journal articles.

Search Google Scholar

Partnering to Heal
US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) offers healthcare professionals and patients and families an excellent interactive video program about preventing healthcare-associated infections (HAIs).

Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA)

The IDSA provides information, education, and practice guidelines for physicians, scientists, and other healthcare professionals who specialize in infectious diseases.


A service of WebMD, Medscape offers specialists, primary care physicians, and other health professionals robust and integrated medical information and educational tools.

Read the Medscape article Brain Abscess Imaging to learn more about using advanced imaging technologies to survey intracranial infections.
US National Library of Medicine, US National Institutes of Health

PubMed keeps the official list of scientific papers published in reputable peer-reviewed medical journals. One may reasonably question the importance and legitimacy of any study not listed here.



News About Intracranial Abscess and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

More news from O2.0 – the HyperbaricLink blog

Complete intracranial abscess news archive from O2.0 — the HyperbaricLink blog

Further Reading

HyperbaricLink suggests "My brain abscess and me" , by Tim Lusher, in The Guardian, UK Edition, 03 November 2009.

Note: This story takes place in England. The author's experience should not be regarded as representative of modern healthcare.

Related Terms

  • Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)
  • Antibiotic
  • Bacteria
  • Bacteroides
  • Cerebral abscess
  • Chronic wounds
  • Clostridial myonecrosis
  • Clostridial myositis
  • Clostridium
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Diabetic ulcers
  • Drug-resistant staph
  • Epidural empyema
  • Enterobacteriaceae
  • Flesh-eating bacteria
  • Fusobacterium
  • Gangrene
  • Healthcare-associated infection (HAI)
  • Hospital-acquired infection (HAI)
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • Hypoxia
  • Immunocompromise
  • Immunodeficiency
  • Immunosuppression
  • Meningitis
  • Methicillin
  • MRSA
  • Organ transplantation
  • Osteomyelitis
  • Prevotella
  • Pseudomonas
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Streptococcus
  • Subdural empyema
  • Toxoplasma


Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society, Indications, Intracranial Abscess. Retrieved 02 May 2015.
Brain Abscess, MedlinePlus, US National Library of Medicine. Retrieved 8 October 2011.
Page Data
Updated: 26 Jul 2015 03:04 PM
Created: 13 Jun 2009 12:00 PM
By: About the authors »