Thriving Under Pressure
What Is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?
Your body’s tissues need oxygen to function, and injured tissue needs more. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy increases the amount of oxygen your blood can carry, thereby promoting healing while fighting infection. The process works by stimulating formation of tiny blood vessels -- a process called “angiogenesis.”
In hyperbaric oxygen therapy, you breathe 100% pure oxygen, pressurized to triple normal air pressure. Your lungs can gather as much as three times the oxygen they could at normal air pressure.
The word “hyperbaric” comes from two Greek roots:
• “Hyper” means over or excessive, as in “hyperactive.”
• “Baros” refers to weight or pressure, as in “barometer.”
A treatment session in a hyperbaric chamber is sometimes called a “dive,” because the pressurized chamber is reminiscent of a submarine.
Uses of Hyperbaric Therapy
Your doctor may suggest outpatient hyperbaric oxygen therapy for any of the following conditions:
• Certain kinds of chronic non-healing wounds
• Delayed radiation injuries
• Soft tissue or bone infection
• Compromised skin flaps or grafts
• Crush injuries
Top Care, Where You Need It
Purchased in 2014, Bay Area Hospital’s two Sechrist hyperbaric chambers are on par with the best hyperbaric centers anywhere.
The Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine Center makes hyperbaric therapy a practical option for local patients. Because hyperbaric therapy often requires weeks of daily treatments, out-of-town treatment is impractical for many patients.
Treating Radiation Damage
Big advances have been made in cancer treatment, including the use of radiation therapy. While radiation treatment saves lives, it also can leave patients with long-term tissue damage.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has dramatically changed the conventional approach to repairing radiation-damaged tissue. It has been shown to stimulate capillary growth, fibroblastic proliferation, and collagen synthesis in irradiated bone and soft tissue. It is the only therapy known to reverse the vascular compromise responsible for late radiation effects.
Patients with soft-tissue injuries require comprehensive wound management. Pain, nutritional deficiencies, pathologic fractures, and oral cutaneous fistulas are some of the complications from radiating bone and soft tissue. Wounds occurring in irradiated tissue respond extremely well to hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
Accessing hyperbaric care
If you’re interested in pursuing hyperbaric treatment, you should consult your family physician or other primary health-care provider.