For the most stubborn wounds, Yakima Valley Memorial (YVM) has two hyperbaric oxygen therapy chambers. Once used to treat deep sea divers with decompression sickness, it is now one of the most innovative therapies offered by YVM's Wound Management Services.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is the breathing of 100% oxygen at a pressure greater than one atmosphere, the pressure of air at sea level. In order to accomplish this treatment, a patient must be enclosed in a specially constructed clear, acrylic chamber.
When and how is hyperbaric oxygen therapy administered?
A patient who has undergone 30 days of conventional wound treatment without significant improvement is a potential candidate for hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Once inside the chamber, the patient breathes 100% oxygen delivered at two to three times atmospheric pressure.
The pressure forces oxygen to dissolve in the blood plasma, which essentially turns the blood into "high octane"—the level of oxygen in the blood can increase 20 to 30 times! Healing can then take place because more oxygen is getting to the wound. This helps the body kill germs and rebuild damaged tissues.
During the sessions, which usually last about two hours, patients can watch videos or even catch up on sleep, with many reporting the best sleep of their lives. Treatments are provided once or twice daily for up to five days a week and are typically administered over four to six weeks. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is used to treat a variety of resistant wounds associated with diabetes, bone infection, radiation tissue damage and the preservation of skin grafts.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy makes a dramatic difference in the percentage of limbs saved. With hyperbaric oxygen therapy available, the amputation rate drops from 34% to 5%, and hospital stays can be reduced by 24%. Studies show that nearly 80% of wounds that would potentially lead to limb loss can be salvaged with this type of therapy.
YVM offers hyperbaric medicine to patients with chronic wounds, especially our increasing diabetic population. Since these services were introduced, there has been a notable increase of patients healing more completely and more quickly.
What is hyperbaric oxygen therapy used for?
Hyperbaric oxygen treatment may be used to treat a number of clinical conditions. Some of these include:
- Decompression sickness.
- Poisonings, such as carbon monoxide or cyanide.
- Crush injury, compartment syndrome and other acute traumatic ischemic injuries.
- Wounds associated with skin grafts or flaps.
- Thermal burns.
- Wounds complicated by hypoxia (diabetic foot ulcers).
- Refractory osteomyelitis.
- Osteoradionecrosis or soft tissue radionecrosis.