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Wound Care FAQs: Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

In Brief

  • To help meet the needs of patients with chronic wounds, the Center for Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine at Crozer-Chester Medical Center offers hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
  • Within the hyperbaric chamber, the patient breathes 100 percent oxygen, with increased atmospheric pressure that causes oxygen to dissolve in the blood.
  • The dissolved oxygen circulates easily throughout the body and stimulates damaged tissues to heal, red blood cells to grow and white bloods cells to fight infection.
  • There is always a qualified professional and physician on site during a hyperbaric chamber treatment. Each treatment session lasts about two hours.

As part one of a two-part series about wound care at Crozer-Keystone Health System, this article will focus on the Center for Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine at Crozer-Chester Medical Center.

To help meet the needs of patients with chronic wounds, the Center for Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine at Crozer-Chester Medical Center offers hyperbaric oxygen therapy on site.

During hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatment, the patient is enclosed in a pressurized chamber. Within the hyperbaric chamber, the patient breathes 100 percent oxygen, with increased atmospheric pressure that causes oxygen to dissolve in the blood. The dissolved oxygen circulates easily throughout the body and stimulates damaged tissues to heal, red blood cells to grow and white bloods cells to fight infection.

“The hyperbaric oxygen chambers are used to treat patients who have chronic, non-healing wounds,” says Ponnampalam Sabanayagam, M.D., program director of the Center for Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine at Crozer-Chester Medical Center. “Several of our patients have wounds associated with diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, autoimmune disease and conditions that reduce their mobility.”

Below are some frequently asked questions about hyperbaric oxygen therapy:

Who qualifies to be treated with hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

Many patients can benefit from HBOT. It is used to treat the following conditions:

  • Arterial gas embolism
  • Carbon monoxide and cyanide poisoning
  • Decompression sickness in divers
  • Thermal burns
  • Chronic osteomyelitis of bone
  • Crush injury, compartment syndrome and acute ischemia (blood vessel occlusions)
  • Gas gangrene
  • Delayed radiation injury to soft tissue, bone or compromised skin flaps
  • Intracranial abscess (actinomycosis)
  • Enhancement of selected problem wounds
  • Necrotizing soft tissue infection
  • Exceptional blood loss due to trauma.

Is hyperbaric oxygen therapy safe?

“Safety is a priority at Crozer-Keystone Health System’s wound centers,” says William Mannella, M.D., chairman of the Division of Surgery at Crozer-Chester Medical Center and medical director of the Center for Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine at Crozer-Chester Medical Center. “There is always a qualified professional and physician on site during your treatment. A technician is always within a visible range while a patient is in the dive chamber. At no time is a patient ever left unattended and all guidelines for safety are always maintained.”

What does HBOT feel like?

“At the start of their treatment, patients may experience a sensation similar to that of flying in an airplane,” Sabanayagam says. “It’s common for patient’s ears to ‘pop’ and to feel pressure in the ears. When the pressure is released at the end of treatment, the pressure automatically dissipates. During the treatment, patients can rest, read and listen to music.” 

How many HBOT treatments does a patient need?

Each treatment session lasts about two hours; however, the treatment's pressure and duration, as well as the number of treatments received, is determined by the hyperbaric doctor. This decision is based on the patient's diagnosis and their body's response to the therapy. Most wound healing patients receive one treatment per day, five days a week, for 20-30 days. Patients with chronic conditions usually receive a longer series of treatments than patients with acute conditions. 

What are the risks or possible side effects of HBOT?

“The most frequent side effect seen with HBOT is ear discomfort during the initiation of the treatment,” Mannella says. “This is very often associated with ear wax, or rarely, congestion from allergy or infection. The second most common complaint is the change in near vision. However, as an added bonus, your far vision improves.”

The side effects are transient and all functions return to normal when the treatment is finished. Other side effects, such as dry cough and seizures, are extremely rare. 

For more information about the Center for Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine at Crozer-Chester Medical Center, call (610) 619-8400 or visit http://woundhealing.crozer.org.

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