- Associated Press - Friday, June 3, 2016

LOGAN, Utah (AP) - When hyperbaric oxygen therapy was first introduced in the 1960s, the treatment was meant to alleviate scuba divers of decompression sickness.

Today, the pressure chambers are used as treatment in several facets of natural wound care, but patients are still called “divers” by the staff at Logan Regional Hospital, the Herald Journal reported (https://bit.ly/25ywxy0).

“It’s easy to think about it like the patients are scuba divers,” Certified Hyperbaric Technologist and Safety Director Susie Frye said about the treatment. “There isn’t any water involved, so instead of water exerting pressure on someone, it’s oxygen itself.”

The term “hyperbaric” is taken from the prefix “hyper,” which means increased, and the suffix “baric,” which indicates pressure. The treatment process involves patients laying down inside a closed chamber, which is then pressurized with 100 percent oxygen, the equivalent of what is found at around 40 feet below sea level.

Frye explained the air we breathe on a regular basis is 21 percent oxygen. The increase in oxygen offered by hyperbaric oxygen therapy, or HBOT, allows patients to breathe in between 200 and 240 percent oxygen, which is then dissolved into the plasma of the patient at a rate 10 to 20 times more than normal.

“The increase of oxygen in the bloodstream helps to increase circulation,” she said. “It also kickstarts angiogenesis, which is the creation of new blood vessels, and helps repair damaged ones.”

The benefits of the high oxygen levels can all be utilized toward the accelerated treatment of various wounds. Quickening the formation of the protein collagen, which can be found in bones and muscles, as well as increasing the numbers of white blood cells in the body to help combat infection both help contribute to the body’s natural healing process.

Logan Regional hyperbaric nurse Stacie Blad said through regular treatments, which last around 90 to 120 minutes for patients daily, patients can heal at a rate three to five times faster than without the treatment.

“If a patient is compliant in eating healthy, hyperbaric treatment used in conjunction can help patients recover much faster and prevent the wound from becoming worse,” Blad explained. “One of the most common wounds we treat are diabetic foot ulcers. The chamber can reduce swelling in the foot and can help prevent the need for any amputations.”

Although foot ulcers with exposed tendons or bones are one of the more commonly treated ailments, Blad said other common ailments include the treatment of osteomyelitis (bone infection), skin graft failures, thermal burn recovery and tissue repair from radiation treatments.

“Sometimes in cancer patients, the radiation used in chemotherapy can damage the surrounding tissue from where the treatment began,” Blad said. “If there are complications in the tissue’s recovery after about a year, appointments in the chamber may help progress recovery along.”

Frye said most patients start with 20 treatments, with the possibility of having up to 100 treatments if necessary. During their time in the chamber, patients can watch television or movies or take a nap. For safety reasons, patients cannot bring any electronics or books inside the chamber with them, as the increase in oxygen can increase flammability.

“Many patients find the process comfortable,” Frye explained. “There are slight temperature changes during the pressurization and depressurization process, but a lot find it easy to fall asleep.”

The treatment is offered at both Logan Regional Hospital and Cache Valley Hospital, and its popularity is increasing. Blad said Logan Regional’s hyperbaric clinic, which features three hyperbaric chambers with the ability to run simultaneously, is equipped for one more machine if the need arises.

“Right now, we can treat up to nine patients per day, but we’re always accepting more,” Blad said.


Information from: The Herald Journal, https://www.hjnews.com

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