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Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Care for Non-Healing Wounds

If you have a wound, infection, or skin issue that is not healing under standard treatment, you may be a candidate for hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBO), a medical treatment in which the entire body is placed under increased atmospheric pressure while you breathe 100% oxygen. This treatment, which is administered in a pressurized chamber, is proven effective for non-healing wounds, bone infections (osteomyelitis) that do not respond to standard treatment, problem surgical wounds, and skin grafts and flaps that are having trouble healing. HBO can also be helpful if you’re experiencing complications from radiation therapy.

Inside the Hyperbaric Chamber

Normally, the atmosphere exerts 14.7 pounds per square inch of pressure on your body at sea level, while you breathe air that is approximately 21% oxygen and 79% nitrogen. During an HBO treatment, you will breathe 100% oxygen under increased atmospheric pressure within the chamber.

This combination of high concentrations of oxygen and increased pressure causes large amounts of oxygen to be dissolved in your blood and tissues, typically 10 to 15 times the usual amount. This dissolved oxygen can penetrate areas that red blood cells cannot reach, revitalizing tissues that receive poor blood flow.

What to Expect During Treatment

During your treatment, you lie down inside the chamber. The chamber door is closed, and you begin to hear the air circulating. During this pressurization phase, you may feel a "fullness" or "pressure" sensation in your ears. A hyperbaric technician is outside the chamber at all times to assist and coach you on how to clear your ears and address any other needs you may have. Compression generally lasts five minutes, depending on how effectively you’re able to clear your ears. When you reach the prescribed treatment pressure, the "fullness" or "pressure" sensation ceases. During treatment, you can watch TV or a movie, or listen to music or a book on CD. The total treatment time is approximately two hours.

Treatment Goals

In about 80% of cases, significant healing is seen. Not every patient will respond well to treatments. If no improvement is seen within 15 to 20 treatments, or “dives,” the chance of success is lessened.

After 20 to 30 treatments, when there is a good response, hyperbaric therapy may be stopped. Your body has been given the “kick-start” it needed to help you finish healing on your own. For radiation and osteomyelitis, 30 to 40 treatments may be required.

Each dive takes approximately 2½ hours total. This can involve a good portion of your time, but it’s very important that you have all your treatments. Treatments are scheduled Monday through Friday.

Throughout your treatment, it’s important that you stay in contact with your primary care physician. Our physicians are fully licensed, but their specialty is in hyperbaric medicine and wound care. For problems not related to your wound care, your physician must remain your constant source of care. Our physicians will keep your primary physician updated on our progress with your care.

Specialties

St. Luke’s wound care specialists provide hyperbaric oxygen therapy and other advanced treatments for wounds that aren’t healing with traditional care.