You've seen it in underwater adventure movies: A diver is rushed to a "decompression chamber," writhing in pain from the "bends" after he comes up too quickly from the ocean depths. The pressure inside the chamber neutralizes excess nitrogen in his bloodstream and allows him to continue his normal life. What a relief!
However, bringing relief and healing in a high-pressure chamber isn't just a movie device. At Adventist Medical Center's Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine clinic, people with a wide range of medical needs - wounds that won't heal, crush injuries, cyanide poisoning, a vessel blocked by air or gas, problem skin grafts and flaps and many other conditions - can be helped by the effects of oxygen administered under high pressure.
How Hyperbaric Medicine Works
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy works by "force-feeding" pure oxygen to the bloodstream, tissues and cells. By elevating the atmospheric pressure and increasing oxygen intake, oxygen is transferred through the membrane of the red blood cells at a much greater, more effective rate to saturate the bloodstream, tissue and cells.
This combination furthers your body's ability to kill germs and to rebuild damaged tissues. The effects help in various ways, depending on the specific condition under treatment. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is a supplemental therapy, used in addition to the other treatments.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy provides benefits in treating a variety of conditions. For example, flooding the body with oxygen forces other gases to be quickly eliminated. This is beneficial in the treatment of victims of carbon monoxide poisoning. For patients with crush injuries, the high-pressure oxygen environment restricts blood flow and can help guard against dangerous swelling.
Treatment in a hyperbaric chamber can also be extremely effective for patients who have certain types of wounds that resist healing. Adventist Medical Center's Wound and Ostomy Care Center assists patients with such difficulties, and works closely with the Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Center to provide therapy for patients whose medical conditions make them candidates for the procedure.
As an adjunct to treatment of wounds, hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been found to increase the healing potential of your body's natural mechanisms. Benefits have also been documented in conditions from traumatic injuries to burns, and includes one or more of the following:
- Enhanced wound healing
- Increase in white blood cells' defense to infection
- Reduction or elimination of the effects of toxic substances
- Reduction or elimination of gas/air-bubbles
- Repair of damaged tissues
The benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy have been well documented and further information is available.
Preparation for Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Once we have established that you can benefit from Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, an order from your attending physician will get you started on the path to faster healing. We will discuss with you specific preparations required before your treatment, including:
Tobacco products constrict blood vessels and limit blood and oxygen delivery to tissues.
Some medications should not be taken during Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy. These include vitamin C, Morphine, Talwin and alcohol (within 8 hours of your treatment).
Cold or flu symptoms may delay your treatment.
Clothing and personal items
You will be required to wear 100 percent cotton hospital clothing during your treatment. You will also be required to remove all jewelry, hearing aids, petroleum based lotions, cosmetics and plastic items.
You will lie or sit comfortably in the chamber during your treatment, which usually lasts 60 to 90 minutes. The hyperbaric staff will be in close contact with your throughout the therapy. The chambers are equipped with an intercom system so you can communicate with your therapist or doctor during therapy. You may watch TV or videos during therapy or if you wish, you may sleep.
Generally, you will feel no side effects from hyperbaric oxygen therapy. During certain parts of the treatment, you may experience a sensation of fullness in your ears, similar to when you are flying in an airplane, as your eardrums respond to pressure changes. Prior to treatment, you will be taught several easy methods of clearing your ears. Some patients may experience anxiety due to the enclosed chamber space. If this becomes a problem during your treatment our staff will respond to your concerns with their presence and experience and if necessary anti-anxiety medications are available.
The treatment center at the Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine Clinic has two hyperbaric chambers, each with room for two people at once. One person can lie inside the main body of the chamber for treatment; another can sit inside the end of the chamber, either for treatment or to attend to the patient being treated. The two chambers can be separately pressurized or depressurized.
Treatment lasts approximately 60 to 90 minutes. During treatment, the patient is awake, and can read, listen to the radio or watch TV through one of several portholes in the side of the chamber. A therapist attends the patient throughout the procedure.
For More Information
To find out if you can benefit from hyperbaric oxygen therapy, ask your physician or call us at (503) 452-4325.