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Hospitals Look Further Into Benefits of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

It’s the scene being seen at hospitals across the country more and more regularly as Americans turn to hyperbaric oxygen therapy to treat pretty serious conditions such as:

  • Chronic wounds

  • Diabetic foot ulcers

  • Radiation injury

  • Bone infections

  • Burns

  • Carbon monoxide poisoning

  • Compromised skin grafts and more

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is an incredibly powerful tool. It can be as helpful and therapeutic as a surgical scalpel in the right patient for the right indication. We’re seeing a rise in specialized wound and hyperbaric centers across the United States,” -- says Dr. Jeffrey Niezgoda, president of the American College of Hyperbaric Medicine.

Throughout the US, an estimated 1,800 to 2,000 hospitals now offer hyperbaric oxygen therapy and about 500 to 700 non-hospital based programs offer the treatment.

In addition, almost all hospital-based programs strictly treat “indications that have been scientifically validated” by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and UHMS, he says. Non-hospital based hyperbaric oxygen therapy programs are more likely to offer “off-label” treatments.

Boosting Oxygen Levels

For quite some time now, a variety of individuals have associated hyperbaric medicine with the treatment of decompression sickness, known as “the bends,” that can strike divers who surface almost instantly.

Today, Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is a mainstream treatment administered in pressurized mono (single person) or multiplace chambers that can hold a dozen or more people.

Patients breathe pure 100 percent oxygen under atmospheric pressure up to three times higher than normal, which drastically help boosts the amount of oxygen in the blood stream. The oxygen-rich blood bathes damaged tissue, stimulating the release of chemicals that promote healing, including the formation of new blood vessels, experts say.

“We’re seeing a growing need for hyperbaric oxygen therapy services in the community,” says Peters. “We’re an aging society and with that come significant challenges to healing.”

But not all patients qualify for hyperbaric oxygen therapy and some experts caution consumers to only seek treatment for the 13 FDA-approved conditions:

  • Air or gas embolism

  • Carbon monoxide poisoning

  • Gas gangrene

  • Crush injury

  • Decompression sickness

  • Arterial insufficiencies, severe anemia

  • Intracranial abscesses

  • Necrotizing (dying) soft tissue infections

  • Osteomyelitis or chronic bone infections

  • Delayed radiation injury

  • Compromised skin grafts and flaps and acute thermal burn injury.

Treating Radiation Damage

Individuals with chronic bone and soft tissue damage caused by radiation to treat cancer represent a BIG portion of the patients looking for help at the Hyperbaric Medicine Center at the Beaumont Health System in Michigan, says Dr. Farris Gulli, its medical director.

The center’s hyperbaric chamber fits up to a dozen people.

Salvaging Limbs With Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

For people with diabetes who have advanced foot ulcers, hyperbaric oxygen therapy can “mean the difference between being able to walk and being disabled for the rest of their life,” says Dr. Anna Flattau, medical director of the Hyperbaric Medicine Program at Montefiore Medical Center in New York.

Poor blood circulation and nerve damage put people with diabetes at risk of developing foot ulcers that can become seriously infected and lead to amputation. Unfortunately, about 60 percent of non-traumatic lower limb amputations occur in adults with diabetes, according to the U.S.

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