Treating Wounds Using Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy 
Cypress Fairbanks Medical Center Hospital 
Monday, 15 October 2007 
 
 
 
Hyperbaric chambers are not just for divers suffering from “the bends” any more. Doctors at Cypress Fairbanks Medical Center Hospital are using these specialized chambers to treat patients with a variety of health conditions, including chronic wounds as well as other injuries.

Treatment in a hyperbaric chamber, where 100 percent oxygen is circulated at higher than normal atmospheric pressure, involves breathing pure oxygen to increase circulation and inundate areas with oxygen-rich blood. Oxygen-starved cells then receive much-needed replenishment so the healing process may begin.

“Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is designed to heal wounds from the inside out,” explains Fred Pauling, M.D., cardiovascular surgeon on staff at Cypress Fairbanks Medical Center Hospital. “Under normal conditions, a healthy network of veins and arteries circulates enough oxygen for tissues to heal properly. But people with compromised immune function, circulatory disorders, diabetes or other health conditions may be slow to recover from wounds because of insufficient blood supply. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy may offer patients a better chance at recovery by thwarting infection while increasing blood vessel growth into the wound, promoting spontaneous healing or a successful skin graft.”

The length and number of treatments with hyperbaric oxygen depends on the condition and its severity. Patients with acute ailments such as carbon monoxide poisoning or decompression illness may need only one or two treatments. Hyperbaric oxygen also can be used to treat patients with air or gas embolism, gas gangrene, thermal burns, crush injuries, bone infections and wounds in areas that have received radiation therapy.

“Oxygen plays a vital role in the body’s healing process,” says Dr. Pauling. “By increasing oxygen from 20 percent in normal air to 100 percent under pressurized conditions, the lungs and skin are able to absorb more oxygen in less time. Speeding up the circulation process may, in turn, give patients a better chance at recovery.”

Some patients may become more nearsighted after several treatments, but this is a temporary side-effect that should disappear shortly after therapy ends. Smoking during the course of treatment is not recommended because cigarette smoke causes blood vessels to constrict, counteracting the benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

The addition of hyperbaric services is a natural progression to our hospital's wound care program attended by a physician and a certified wound care therapist.