By DR. MICHAEL MANUEL
Q: I was told that I may benefit from hyperbaric oxygen therapy for my diabetic foot infection. What is it?
A: Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a medical treatment that increases the amount oxygen in a patient’s blood.
It involves pressurizing a chamber to two to three times sea level air pressure and breathing 100 percent oxygen. Under these conditions, you can significantly increase the amount of oxygen in your body, up to 10 times the normal amount.
This large increase in oxygen improves the amount that reaches tissue that would otherwise not get enough oxygen to heal.
Along with the increase in oxygen, hyperbaric oxygen therapy stimulates the release of substances called growth factors and stem cells, which promote healing. Other cells that fight infection are also stimulated to kill bacteria.
People with certain types of chronic wounds/ulcers may not have an adequate supply of oxygen to the damaged tissue to allow healing to happen normally.
When this is the case, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is usually able to increase blood oxygen levels temporarily toward normal levels to improve tissue perfusion to promote healing and fight infection.
A typical treatment last approximately 90 minutes with most people receiving 20 to 40 treatments.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is done along with concurrent treatment in a wound center. These treatments include localized wound care, surgical debridement to remove infected tissue, improving nutrition levels and procedures to re-open or replace occluded blood vessels.
There are a variety of indications for utilizing hyperbaric oxygen therapy in the treatment of non-healing wounds and other medical problems.
Most wound centers will treat patients suffering from chronic issues including: diabetic foot ulcers, chronic osteomyelitis (bone infection), ulcers present after revascularization, failing skin/flaps, radiation injury and osteoradionecrosis.
Some other emergent reasons for using it include carbon monoxide poisoning, decompression sickness, a crush injury, gangrene, burns and severe anemia.
If you have a wound that hasn’t healed in four weeks, you should consult your family doctor or seek the assistance of your local wound care center.
You will be seen by a wound care specialist. A specialized treatment plan will be developed to help start the healing process. If appropriate, this care may include hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
Dr. Manuel is the medical director of Wound Care Solutions, Findlay. Questions for Blanchard Valley Health System experts may be sent to Weekend Doctor, The Courier, P.O. Box 609, Findlay, OH 45839.
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