Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Another important tool in our treatment arsenal for chronic and complex wounds is hyperbaric oxygen therapy. In selected patients, this treatment approach can often provide the extra boost that enables problem wounds to begin healing, especially when combined with our innovative regenerative medicine therapies. Winthrop-University Hospital's hyperbaric medicine program, headed by Scott Gorenstein, MD, clinical director of the Winthrop Wound Healing Center, and managed operationally by Michael Merrow, CHT, is a national leader in the field. Our hyperbaric oxygen facility, located in Winthrop's main building, has four hyperbaric chambers, in which patients are treated by two full-time wound-healing physicians and a highly-trained group of technicians. With over 10,000 treatments administered, our expertise in hyperbaric oxygen therapy is another reason why our wound-care team is frequently able to heal problem wounds that haven't responded to treatment at other centers.
How Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Works
In order for any wound to heal, it's essential that the wound tissue receives an adequate flow of blood in order to supply it with healing oxygen and nutrients as well as antibodies that fight infection, and to remove toxins that impair healing. A lack of adequate blood supply is often one of the underlying reasons why a chronic wound is failing to heal properly.
During a hyperbaric oxygen therapy session, the patient breathes in pure oxygen while resting inside a pressurized chamber. This elevated air pressure enables significantly more oxygen to be taken up by the bloodstream (up to five times more than breathing pure oxygen at sea level pressure) and carried to the wound tissue. This increased oxygen supply spurs the growth of new blood vessels in the affected tissue, giving a boost to the healing process.
What Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is Used For
Hyperbaric chambers were originally developed to treat deep-sea divers suffering from the "bends." Today, physicians use hyperbaric oxygen therapy to treat many types of tissue damage, including burns, gangrene, crush injuries, and certain types of wounds, including diabetic foot ulcers, pressure ulcers, wounds that have been treated with skin grafts that haven't healed completely, wounds caused by radiation therapy, and wounds in which there is an underlying bone infection (a condition called osteomyelitis).
At the Winthrop Wound Healing Center, we do a vascular evaluation of all of our patients in order to assess how well blood is flowing to each patient's wound, and also examine the wound tissue itself for signs of ischemia (lack of oxygen). If we find that the patient's wound tissue is not receiving an adequate blood supply, then we may prescribe hyperbaric oxygen treatment in addition to surgical debridement and regenerative medicine therapy.
What to Expect
Wound patients who receive hyperbaric oxygen therapy will typically undergo anywhere from 20 to 40 treatment sessions. Each session lasts about two hours, including 90 minutes of breathing pure oxygen through an oxygen mask. During the treatment session, the patient relaxes comfortably inside the hyperbaric chamber. While reading isn't allowed due to fire safety concerns, each hyperbaric chamber is equipped with a flat-screen television and DVD player so that patients may watch TV or movies during their sessions.
Click on the following link to read more about our Hyperbaric Medicine Program on the Winthrop-University Hospital website.