Hard-to-heal wounds can be a problem for many people. One way that Medical West is offering treatment is through hyperbaric oxygen therapy at the Advanced Wound Center.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is the application of 100% oxygen that is applied to a patient under pressure. The therapy is used for decompression sickness, for infections, air pockets in blood vessels, and for diabetic wounds that won’t heal.
Skin tissue needs oxygen to function properly. In situations where the skin is not functioning properly, introducing the body to a more concentrated amount of oxygen temporarily can assist in getting the body and skin back on track. While it may look intimidating - the patient is placed in a large, pressurized tube or room - the procedure is generally very safe. The patient is placed in the hyperbaric chamber, and they breathe pure oxygen. The air pressure is usually two to three times that of normal air pressure, and the typical session usually lasts about two hours.
When a body gets 100% oxygen under pressure, the oxygen attaches to red blood vessels. It’s also pushed throughout your blood plasma and tissue fluid. This rebuilds capillary beds in skin and extremities. This increased oxygen levels helps to heal.
Most patient concerns aren’t with the science of the treatment - it’s with the process. Generally, many people get concerned or nervous about being “locked” into a glass tube. This is where some education about the process is needed. Patients don’t have to sit entirely still throughout the process - they can move, technicians can help keep the patient cool if they need to, are able to communicate, and even have televisions set up so that the patient can relax and watch a movie or favorite television show during the process to help pass the time. Some even use the time as an opportunity to get a good nap in.
There is a bit of pressure felt by the patient - similar to the “stuffy ears” sensation you would get on an airplane - but that is alleviated the same way by swallowing or yawning.
For those struggling with long-lasting open wounds, please consult your physician about hyperbaric oxygen therapy and see if it is appropriate for your individual case. For more information about the Medical West Advanced Wound Center, call (205) 481-8790 or visit us online at medicalwesthospital.org.
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