The newly-expanded MedStar Wound Healing Center at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital has four hyperbaric oxygen therapy chambers to help treat patients with wounds that have resisted traditional treatment. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a medical treatment that increases the amount of oxygen in the patient's blood, allowing oxygen to pass more easily through the plasma into the wounds to heal them. It uses 100 percent oxygen (compared to 21 percent found in our daily air) breathed at higher than normal pressures (up to three times more than normal atmospheric pressure) to enhance healing in problem wounds. Greater amounts of oxygen entering the body promote blood vessel formation, increased oxygen flow to damaged tissue, reduced infection, fast healing rate of wounds, reduced swelling and preservation of tissue. This treatment is not painful, and there are very few side effects. However, most wound care does not involve hyperbaric treatment. Only 15 percent of patients need this kind of treatment for wound healing.
HBOT can be used to treat the most difficult wounds that are resistant to healing, including:
- Acute Thermal Burns
- Arterial Insufficiencies
- Central Retinal Artery Occlusion
- Compromised Skin Flaps and Grafts
- Crush Injuries, Compartment Syndrome and other Acute Traumatic Ischemias
- Delayed Radiation Injury of Bone and Soft Tissue
- Gas Gangrene
- Idiopathic Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (ISSHL)
- Necrotizing Soft Tissue Infections
- Osteomyelitis (Refractory)
- Severe Anemia
FAQs on Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is an essential part of some chronic wound treatment plans. Weighing more than one ton, the HBO chamber resembles a reclining bed inside in a large clear acrylic shell. You can even listen to music or watch movies. The only physical sensation from the treatment is a slight pressure on your eardrums, such as that felt when a plane lands.
Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about HBOT:
Who requires extra oxygen?
Usually, there is no benefit to increasing the level of oxygen in the body for normal, healthy individuals. People with certain medical conditions do, however, benefit from increased levels of oxygen. HBO can provide proper healing for the following conditions:
- Diabetic wounds that are slow to heal
- Wounds that haven't shown improvement in four weeks
- Certain bone and skin infections
- Injuries resulting from radiation treatment
- Compromised or failing skin grafts or flaps
- Foot ulcers
- Decompression sickness (bends)
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
What should I wear?
Since safety is our priority, we will provide you with clothing to wear during your treatment. Please do not wear any of the following items when you come to the center for HBO therapy:
- Contact lenses
- Wigs or hair pieces
- Nail polish
- Skin lotions
- Vaseline-based products
- Perfume, cologne, or aftershave
- Jewelry, including watches and earrings
- Hair spray or oils
Do I have to go somewhere else for these treatments?
No, you'll come here to the Wound Healing Center for treatment. Your therapy will be supervised by a specially-trained physician and monitored by a technician each day.
How long do treatments last?
On average, treatments last about two hours. This includes the time to pressurize and depressurize the chamber plus 90 minutes at the prescribed treatment depth.
How many treatments will I need?
The number of treatments is not pre-set because each person responds differently to the therapy. For example, the average number of treatments required to heal a patient with a problem wound is 20 to 40.
How many times a day will I be treated?
For most chronic wounds, HBO therapy each weekday is sufficient.
Is HBO therapy covered by my insurance?
Medicare has approved coverage for HBO therapy for many types of chronic non-healing wounds. Most private insurance companies follow Medicare's guidelines, as well. We will review your insurance plan with you before your therapy starts to make sure you know what your costs will be.
Is HBO therapy painful?
No, the only sensation you will experience is during the pressurization phase of the treatment. Our chambers contain special mattresses that keep you comfortable during your treatment and provide for even pressure distribution. The slowly increasing pressure will push on your eardrums. This is exactly the same feeling you would experience when landing in an airplane or diving to the bottom of a swimming pool. The hyperbaric staff will instruct you about different methods of relieving this ear pressure.
Is HBO therapy dangerous?
No, the treatment is very safe. The Wound Healing Center has very strict procedures that assure your safety and make your treatment comfortable. Before your first treatment, you will be given a thorough orientation. Our HBO chambers accommodate patients of all sizes and specialized lifting equipment is available to help transfer patients from a wheelchair or stretcher to the treatment chamber.
What should I bring with me?
If you have a movie you would like to share with other patients, please bring it with you. Otherwise, you don't need to bring anything. If you have diabetes, make sure you eat before your treatment begins. If your sinuses are congested or you feel ill, let the technician know so we can make you more comfortable.
What can I do during HBO therapy? Can I read a book or newspaper?
Each chamber has a TV/DVD entertainment system mounted to it, so you can watch TV or a movie during your treatment. You may not bring anything in the chamber with you, including books and newspapers. Many patients simply use the time to catch up on some well-deserved rest.
Are there any bathroom facilities in the chamber?
No, however it is possible to take a bedpan or urinal in with you during your treatment. The staff can finish the treatment early, if required.
What if I feel claustrophobic?
Interestingly enough, most hyperbaric patients do not suffer from claustrophobia. This could be due to either the large size of the chamber or the fact that it has a clear acrylic shell. From inside the chamber, it is possible to see out in all directions. If you still feel anxious about your treatment, the hyperbaric physician can prescribe medication that will relax you and make your treatment less stressful.
How can I communicate with the technician?
The chamber is equipped with two-way communication. You can talk to the outside technician at any time. The technician can talk to you through the chamber microphone.
How do I find out if HBOT is right for me?
If you have a wound that hasn't healed in four weeks, consult the Wound Healing Center. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy may be an appropriate part of the treatment plan. A physician at the center will evaluate your wound and determine the best course of treatment.
Can someone stay with me during therapy?
To protect the privacy of our patients, family members may not remain with you during your treatment. A waiting room is provided for their comfort. A trained technician is always in the room during treatment and can communicate with you at any time.
Take a Virtual Tour
Take a virtual tour of our newly-expanded Wound Healing Center that now offer eight treatment rooms and four hyperbaric oxygen therapy chambers.