By Kim Petrone, M.D.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is the use of high-pressure oxygen to help treat chronic wounds and other conditions. It can enhance the healing process and is often used to complement other treatments.
HBOT has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat several medical conditions. For example, your doctor may suggest it (and your insurance may cover it) if you have:
• Complex diabetic foot ulcers
• Chronic bone infections such as osteomyelitis
• Late effects of radiation therapy
• Compromised skin grafts and flaps
You may be referred for treatment by a specialist (podiatrist, urologist, etc.) or your primary care provider. Following the referral, you’ll be evaluated by your HBOT team to determine whether the treatment is right for you. A personalized plan is then developed to match the right techniques to your unique needs.
How it works
When undergoing HBOT, the patient enters a hyperbaric chamber that has been pressurized with 100 percent oxygen. The atmospheric pressure is gradually increased, the same way air pressure increases for a deep-sea diver when diving. The pressure increase allows more oxygen to dissolve in the blood which enhances the healing process.
One treatment generally takes two to two and a half hours. During that time, the patient, who is lying down, can watch TV, listen to music or simply rest. The idea of being in an enclosed space for two hours can sound scary, but the chamber is transparent on all sides and the chamber operator is by the patient’s side throughout the treatment. Further, the chambers we use at the Rochester General Wound Healing Center at St. Ann’s Community are the largest such units in the area, for added patient comfort.
The treatment is followed by an evaluation by the HBOT team in collaboration with the patient’s medical specialists (radiologist, urologist, etc.) The need for further treatment or an alternate treatment is determined.
The HBOT team
HBOT is administered by the chamber operator, an individual who specializes in this type of therapy. The treatment is overseen by a physician who specializes in hyperbaric medicine.
The chamber operator has been trained in evaluating the patient, assessing risk factors (such as interactions with medication or medical devices), and ensuring patient health and safety. At the wound care center, the chamber operator is a registered nurse who is wound care-certified and trained as an HBOT safety director. She also provides a consistent presence throughout treatment and develops a personal rapport with patients.
Physician Kim Petrone is medical director of St. Ann’s Community and the Rochester General Wound Healing Center at St. Ann’s. She is board certified in internal medicine and geriatrics and is a certified wound specialist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on HBOT at St. Ann’s Community, call 585-922-HEAL (4325) or visit www.stannscommunity.com.