Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Oxygen

Posted at 10:59 AM, Jul 17, 2014
and last updated 2014-07-17 12:59:23-04

Wound Healing

Wound healing is a very complex process which we often take for granted. However, when the process fails, the results can be life altering, even life threatening.

There are Wound Clinics which specialize in healing all types of difficult, non-healing wounds. We can offer therapies, not always available in other physician offices. These may include skin substitutes, compression therapies, negative pressure wound therapy or hyperbaric oxygen.

Advances in Wound Therapies

Because people are living longer and more people have diabetes, the number of people with wounds is increasing. Science and industry are working to bring many new technologies to patients. These include tissue from human placentas, from fetal calf hides, cells from newborn foreskins, pig bladders and intestines and even the sac around the heart of a horse.

But some things never change, like the need for off loading wounds in patients with numbness or compression in patients with venous disease. There are many options for compression; socks, Velcro wraps and even pumps which push the fluid out of the legs and back to the heart.

We have used Negative Pressure Wound Therapy for many years and recently improvements in technology have resulted in much smaller machines which may be used when there is less drainage. Some are battery powered and some mechanically powered so they are smaller and lighter but stimulate healing in the same ways.

What is hyperbaric oxygen therapy?
When tissue on the body is injured, it requires a significant amount of oxygen to heal. In certain cases, the body needs assistance with the healing process, which is where hyperbaric oxygen therapy may be beneficial.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy increases the amount of oxygen carried by the blood. This increase in blood oxygen promotes tissue repair and helps the body fight infections. It also stimulates the development of new blood vessels so that even after hyperbaric treatments have finished, there is still improved blood flow.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can be used to treat a variety of conditions including:

  • Diabetic wounds
  • Skin grafts
  • Wounds in areas which have been previously radiated for cancer
  • Chronic bone infections
  • Decompression sickness (bends)
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Gangrene

What to expect during hyperbaric oxygen therapy

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is commonly performed in an outpatient setting. It is typically administered either in a

  • Single-person unit: The patient goes into a clear acrylic tube which is then pressurized with 100% oxygen.
  • Or a multiplace chamber where several people are treated at once. At these locations, the patient receives oxygen through a mask or a clear hood.

Each session may last two hours, and a medical team monitors you throughout treatment.