From UC Santa Barbara Today, Winter 2001 issue
...a new treatment, still in the early stages of clinical practice, can help save the cells of your retina if you receive it while you wait for your surgery, and before too much damage has occured. The treatment is simple but very effective: Breathing pure oxygen will help to ameliorate the damage to the eye. Santa Barbara opthalmologist Robert Avery is also a research associate of the Neuroscience Research Institute at UC Santa Barbara. The treatment was first developed there under the director Steven K. Fisher, who worked with researchers in Australia.
Two studies on oxygen's effect on retinal detachment, which were co-authored by Fisher and Avery were published in the American Journal of Opthalmology.
..... During detachement (of the retina), the thin lining of light-sensitive nerve fibers and cells covering the inside wall of the eye is damaged. The retina is separated from its only source of nutrients and oxygen, the choroid, a bed of capillaries that serves to transport them. With oxygen therapy, the retina is resupplied with more of those life-sustaining molecules.
......Even though these findings published by the UCSB institute were the result of animal studies and not clinical trials on humans, such as the ones beginning soon in Santa Barbara and Australia, Fisher said that the results were so compelling that he urges opthalmologist everywhere to consider supplying oxygen to patients with retinal detachments while they await surgery.