Health Matters Blog

HBOT Brings New Hope for Healing Chronic Wounds

By Lynne Vantassel

Lynne Vantassel

Lynne Vantassel

While most of us are familiar with the use of hyperbaric oxygen chambers for scuba divers with decompression sickness, the use of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) in wound care is an effective and FDA approved treatment for non-healing ulcers and wounds. HBOT is an adjunctive medical treatment in which the patient is entirely enclosed in a pressure chamber breathing 100% oxygen at greater than one atmospheric pressure. Treatment is determined by a specially trained physician who, after determining if the patient meets the criteria for HBOT, will work with the center to have the patient scheduled to begin therapy in the chamber, five days a week, for a period of up to four to five weeks.

The chambers that will be used in the Center for Wound Healing at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital are called monoplace chambers—which means that only one person can occupy the chamber at any given time. Prior to the treatment, patients will receive detailed instructions on preparing for their HBO treatment and during their “dive” can watch television, movies, or listen to music. The patient will be provided with a garment to wear in the chamber. Patients are restricted from using makeup, lotions, perfumes, hair spray, wigs, contacts, nail polish, jewelry or deodorants. A full list of items and guidelines will be given to the patient prior to their time in the chamber. Prior to each treatment, the technician will take the patient’s vital signs and check their ears. Also, blood sugar will be checked on diabetic patients.

The HBO technician is in the room at all times and the patient can communicate with the technician if they have any questions or concerns at any time during the treatment. The patient, once placed in the chamber, will be breathing 100% pure oxygen, which will saturate their blood plasma and allow it to carry 15-20 times the normal amount of healing oxygen into the body’s tissues. HBOT works in several ways to aid healing while enhancing the patient’s immune response. The therapy increases resistance to anaerobic bacteria. It will increase phagocytosis (phagocytosis is the killing function of white blood cells) and pure oxygen improves this function. It also can inactivate certain toxins, including gangrene, and will reduce local tissue edema (swelling).

HBOT is not painful. At the beginning of the treatment, the patient will feel some pressure in their ears. This pressure is similar to the pressure of flying in a plane or driving into the mountains. This pressure can be relieved by swallowing, yawning, or opening and closing the mouth. If the patient anticipates feeling claustrophobic, their physician can prescribe something to keep them calm during treatment, and the patient will be able to see outside the chamber.

HBO treatment has been approved by Medicare and other major insurance carriers for treatment of certain non-healing ulcers and wounds, and the Center can receive insurance approval prior to treatment.

The type of HBOT technology BMH has selected for its new Center for Wound Healing is the Sechrist 3300 Monoplace Hyperbaric Chamber. Manufactured in the USA within Sechrist’s state of the art production and manufacturing facility, these chambers are designed and tested to provide to most complete and safest chamber on the world market. The chambers are expected to arrive on April 25 and when they become operational on May 9, it will be the first time this treatment will be available in the state of Vermont.

Lynne Vantassel is the Program Director for the Brattleboro Memorial Hospital Center for Wound Healing. She can be reached at lvantassel@bmhvt.org. An Open House takes place at 5:00 PM on Tuesday, May 7 to allow the public to tour the Center and meet the staff.

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