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Under Pressure

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy helps heal wounds

You might think pressure is some- thing to avoid. But if you’re dealing with a stubborn wound, pressure can help promote healing when delivered in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber.

“With hyperbaric oxygen therapy, you breathe 100 percent oxygen,” says Scott Stephenson, program director at Lehigh Valley Hospital–Schuylkill E. Norwegian Street’s Advanced Wound Center. “Receiving it in a pressurized chamber enhances oxygen delivery to injured areas through the blood, which helps fight infection, improves generation of blood vessels and results in better outcomes such as higher quality of life and less time in the hospital.”

Deep-water pressure

Therapy recipients recline in a tube-like chamber that creates pressure equivalent to being 33 feet underwater. “It feels no different than lying on a sofa except your ears may crackle like they do when you fly in a plane,” says Cathy Cruz, RN, clinical nurse manager at the Advanced Wound Center. “We teach you how to swallow, yawn, or hold your nose and blow to open your ears.”

The chamber is not confining like some MRI machines. “It is clear acrylic all the way around so you can see out,” says Gail Zerby, LPN, hyperbaric technician at the Advanced Wound Center. Zerby is one of the specially educated clinicians who deliver and monitor the therapy. “You can watch TV or a movie during the two hours of treatment,” she says. Think of it like flying nonstop between the Lehigh Valley and Orlando (but with more legroom).

Healing is enhanced

The therapy is especially beneficial for slow-to-heal wounds or ulcers caused by diabetes, surgery, trauma, amputation or grafts. “It’s an adjunct to other therapies that have failed to provide adequate healing,” Cruz says.

And although hyperbaric therapy is not a wound cure-all, the Advanced Wound Center achieves a 95 percent healing rate, with patients healing on average in 28 days – well ahead of the center’s benchmark healing rate. Following 30 to 60 days of daily Monday-to-Friday hyperbaric therapy you may see a bonus effect. “It can enhance wound healing for weeks after you complete treatment,” Cruz says.

Are you concerned about a slow-healing wound? Learn more about hyperbaric wound care.