Wound care specialists can heal most chronic wounds (wounds that haven’t healed for weeks or months, that heal too slowly, that never completely go away, or that recur often) with a variety conventional steps including cleaning, bandaging, disinfecting, and releaving pressure from the wound. But for a smaller group of patients who need HBOT (hyperbaric oxygen therapy) to achieve healing, this oxygen-saturation treatment is indispensable. Wounds related to immobilzation or diabetes are common targets for this therapy.
Oxygen Key to the Healing Environment
Doctors know that a combination of infection and lack of oxygen in the tissues is often the reason that wounds fail to heal promptly or completely. This is regardless of what may have caused the initial physical injury or irritation to the area. When the area around a wound does not receive adequate oxygen through the bloodstream, the tissues can’t produce enough of the new skin, connective tissue, and fine blood vessels that are fundamental to wound healing. White bloods cells also can’t properly perform their germ-killing function, and bacteria that thrive in low-oxygen environments spread.
HBOT reverses these deficiencies by increasing oxygen levels throughout the wound area. Both locally and throughout the body, it enhances immune function and helps new capillaries (tiny thin-walled blood vessels) to form. Improved circulation, in turn, helps much-needed blood flow to reach damaged and infected areas. This draws off fluid and reduces swelling, further improving blood flow. Thus, by dramatically increasing the oxygen content level in blood and compromised tissue, hyperbaric oxygen therapy provides the ideal environment to promote the growth of new tissue and vessels, and discourage growth of bacteria-factors that are all cornerstones of wound healing.
The Diabetes Example
Wounds on the feet of patients with diabetes provide a very common example of these processes. Individuals with diabetes often have impaired immune systems that make them more prone to infections. They tend to have atherosclerosis (hardening or narrowing) in both large and small arteries, and abnormalities of the blood that make it difficult for their circulation to reach small capillaries.
Compounding these problems, damage to nerves from diabetes makes it difficult for patients to move their feet properly and sense damage to them, leaving them susceptible to worsening pressures and ulcers. For these patients, increasing the available oxygen in their circulation often makes all the difference in the ability of their body to heal a wound in this area.
Matching the Right Patient to HBOT
Wound-care specialists at Lourdes carefully evaluate patients before recommending them for hyperbaric treatment, in order to assure that the therapy is safe and appropriate for them-and that other, more conventional have not proved adequate. Hyperbaric medicine does not correct, or replace, care for conditions of the heart, lung or blood vessels but it can enhance healing that is slow or deficient due to such conditions.
Most patients see good results with HBOT and many appreciate dramatic results with wounds that would not otherwise heal. Lourdes offers HBOT to patients for whom conventional wound care has proven insufficient and whose health status otherwise makes them candidates for this therapy.