Hyperbaric Medicine is like a breath of (Highly Oxygenated) fresh air
Hyperbaric medicine has been most commonly used to help scuba divers recover from the decompression sickness (the bends). It has also been found to help wound healing, carbon monoxide poisoning, skin grafts, and thermal burns. Michael Bertocchi, MD, general surgeon and medical director of the Wound Care Center at Parker Adventist Hospital, is excited about the opportunity to use this technology to provide comprehensive care to patients suffering from chronic wounds.
The Wound Care Center at Parker Adventist Hospital is a joint effort between Parker Hospital and Healogics, a national corporation that runs over 500 wound centers nationwide. One of the big attractions of the Center is the addition of hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
Through hyperbaric oxygen therapy, “a patient is pressurized in an atmosphere of 100% oxygen,” says Bertocchi. “And what that does is allow oxygen to diffuse directly into the injured tissue and increase the oxygen tension at that level. This markedly improves the ability of compromised tissue (the wound) to heal -- and that’s pretty impressive.”
The treatment takes place in a cylindrical chamber that is constructed of steel and clear acrylic so that the patient can see his or her surroundings during the entire treatment. Making them much more at ease.
"It’s similar to the effect of diving in the ocean anywhere from 30 to 60 feet in depth,” says Bertocchi. The sensation might take a little getting used to, especially the pressure changes in the ears. But, prior to treatment, patients are taught how to relieve any discomfort. To ensure safety, all Wound Care Center personnel undergo an intensive hyperbaric education and credentialing process.
Typically, hyperbaric medicine patients will receive 20 to 30 treatments, sometimes more. Conditions typically treated by this therapy include osteomyelitis (bone infection), diabetic foot ulcer, complications of radiation therapy, compromised surgical grafting, and severe skin and muscle infections.
The most common side effects include earaches, claustrophobia and, in diabetics, hypoglycemia. But the vast majority of patients, Bertocchi says, are able to tolerate the treatment very well.
“Treating a chronic wound can be a prolonged and frustrating endeavor for many practicing physicians,” Bertocchi explains.
“Having a comprehensive center where we can dedicate specialized treatments within evidence based algorithms will ensure superior healing and limb salvage rates.”