Wound Healing Center marks 6th Year Anniversary of HBO Chambers

Posted Date: 6/8/2010

The Wound Healing Center of Mon General Hospital recently marked its sixth year of offering Hyperbaric Oxygen (HBO) Therapy to patients with chronic wounds. The center’s two HBO chambers first went into use on June 9, 2004.

“Because of the HBO chambers, the Wound Healing Center has been able to offer a whole new service to the community for the treatment of non-healing wounds,” said Katie Cunningham, Director of the Wound Healing Center. “We are the only ones in Monongalia County to offer this.

“Our HBO chambers have improved the quality of life for many patients who have come to us with non-healing wounds,” Cunningham said. “HBO Therapy saves limbs and it heals wounds that patients may have had for years. This treatment can make a tremendous difference in the lives of our patients. Often, it is the last option before amputation.”

“Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves breathing 100% oxygen under pressure while enclosed in a chamber,” said Roger Barclay, MD, a physician who sees patients at the Wound Healing Center. “Hyperbaric oxygen stimulates the development of new capillaries and collagen production, which is very helpful for wound healing. Hyperbaric oxygen has been proven to accelerate the formation of granulation tissue, an important stage in wound healing, and is also shown to increase the rate of wound closure.”

HBO chambers work by surrounding the patient with 100 percent oxygen at higher than normal atmospheric pressure in sessions, often referred to as “dives.” This nickname was given to the procedure because the pressure in the chamber simulates the pressure experienced by deep sea divers.

Patients speak highly of the Wound Healing Center and its staff.

“We were very pleased with the employees there, the attitude, and the way they treat their patients,” said Leann Bishoff of Bruceton Mills.

Leann’s husband Vaughn was diagnosed with cancer in March 2005. After numerous surgeries and reconstructive surguries on his face, the incisions were not staying closed.

Vaughn underwent 95 treatments, the most of any patient. “The treatments were successful,” she said. “He finally got to the point where he was done with all the surgeries and the HBO treatments got all the holes (incisions) closed.”

Mark Dixon of Bruceton Mills had “60 dives” after he lost a leg and skin grafts didn’t take following his first sugery. “The HBO therapy was necessary to get enough healing before they could do a second surgery,” he said.

“That thing is just amazing,” Dixon said about the HBO chamber. “I saw a stitch hole close up after one dive. It took about a dozen dives to start seeing things progress.

“I’m a firm believer in HBO,” he said. “I’d suggest it to anyone who has lost a leg or limb. To me it is just unbelieveable how that thing works.” After his tissue began growing and became healthy, a second successful sugery was performed.

Dixon said he felt welcome at the Would Healing Center. “Everyone there made you feel like family,” he said.

As of March 2010, the Wound Healing Center’s HBO chambers had treated 126 patients, for a total of 3,496 treatments. The chambers average about 30 patients a year. Because each patient has between 30-60 treatments, the HBO chambers stay busy five days a week.
A typical treatment takes approximatley two-and-a-half hours. “We can handle a maximum of six patients per day for HBO Therapy,” she said. For most chronic problems, treatments take place once a day, five days a week.

Introduced in the mid-1960s, HBO chambers have evolved to treat patients suffering from diabetic ulcers, pressure ulcers, infections, compromised skin grafts and flaps, and diabetic lower extremity wounds that haven't healed within 30 days.

While breathing 100% oxygen at atmospheric pressures greater than sea level, more oxygen is dissolved in the blood and distributed throughout the entire body. This helps healing by increasing the ability of white blood cells to fight infection.

“Out of all the wounds that can be treated in the HBO chambers, diabetic foot ulcers are the number one type of wound the Wound Healing Center treats in its chambers,” Cunningham said. Approximately 85 percent of all diabetic wounds that ultimately lead to amputation begin as foot ulcers.

“We are also seeing a rise in the number of patients being treated with soft tissue radiation injuries,” she said.

"On average, a schedule of HBO treatments can heal wounds that have existed for years in three to four months," she said. The therapy is only used for wounds which have not responded to other treatments and only 10 to 15 percent of the patients treated at the center are eligible for HBO therapy.

Weighing more than one ton each, the HBO chambers resemble a reclining bed encased in a clear acrylic shell nearly a yard in diameter. Patients can listen to music or watch a television mounted above the chamber while remaining in constant contact with those outside the chamber through an intercom and private handset. The only physical sensation resulting from the treatment is a slight pressure on the eardrum, such as that felt when a plane lands, as the air in the chamber is compressed.

“Most patients tolerate being enclosed in the HBO chamber pretty well,” Cunningham said. “The chambers are clear and the patients are distracted by the televisions.”

Diabetics and the elderly are most at risk for wounds that fail to heal. West Virginia has the oldest median age in the nation and ranks second among the states for diabetes related deaths. With its two hyperbaric oxygen therapy chambers, the Wound Healing Center is committed to offering the best treatment available.

HBO Therapy is offered Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Wound Healing Center of Mon General Hospital is located at 200 Wedgewood Drive. The center specializes in the treatment of chronic wounds and non-responsive conditions and offers outpatient wound care. A physician referral is not required by the center. Pre-authorization may be required by certain insurances. For more information, call (304) 285-1460.
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