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We Have a Unique Way to Treat Nasty Chronic Wounds

Everyone has had a wound. Most wounds heal without a problem, or they require only minor medical care.

Some wounds become difficult to heal because of diabetes, radiation or poor circulation. For these wounds, an effective treatment option is hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Despite the complicated name, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is straightforward in that it gives wounds a big dose of a potent ingredient for healing: oxygen.  


What Is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a treatment where a patient breathes pure, 100 percent oxygen either in a closed chamber or from a mask. While the patient breathes pure oxygen, the air around the patient is pressurized – like in an airplane cabin.

The pressure increase is similar to what your body would experience if you were about 33 feet under water. By pressurizing the surroundings, high amounts of oxygen can be dissolved in the blood and travel throughout the body and to the wounded tissue.

The oxygen has several good effects on wound healing, such as killing bacteria, building new blood vessels and activating stem cells (in many tissues, stem cells serve as an internal repair system).


What Is a Hyperbaric Chamber?

Hyperbaric chambers range in size from tube-like structures that one person can lie or sit up in, to room-size units that can treat 25 people at once.

Aurora Health Care has offered hyperbaric oxygen therapy since 1969, and has multiple hospitals with hyperbaric chambers, including one of the largest chambers in the United States at St. Luke’s Medical Center.


What Is a Course of Hyperbaric Treatment Like?

Because repeated exposures to high oxygen levels are needed to get damaged tissues to heal, hyperbaric oxygen treatments need to be done multiple times. Each treatment ranges from 90 minutes to two hours.

Treatments are usually done once a day for six to eight weeks. More serious infections, and some conditions like decompression sickness, may require twice-a-day treatments for a shorter time.

A patient can spend their time in the hyperbaric chamber sleeping, listening to music or watching TV or movies. The usual patient experiences the sensation of needing to “pop” their ears as the chamber is pressurized – much the same way as when flying.

What Does Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Treat?

This form of treatment is use for conditions such as:

  • Bone infections that haven’t improved with other treatments
  • Burns
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Some types of brain or sinus infections
  • Decompression sickness (such as a diving injury)
  • Radiation injury (for example, damage from radiation therapy for cancer)
  • Skin grafts
  • Wounds that have not healed with other treatments (for example, the therapy may be used to treat a foot ulcer in a patient with diabetes or poor circulation)


Aurora Health Care facilities across our footprint are equipped to provide hyperbaric and specialized wound care. All Aurora Health Care hyperbaric facilities are accredited by the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society and regularly evaluated for safety and quality.

If you have questions about hyperbaric oxygen therapy, ask your health care provider. If you have a condition that could be helped by hyperbaric oxygen therapy, your health care provider may recommend it. Now you know what it’s all about! 

Meet the Author

Rebecca M. Striet, MD, is an Undersea & Hyperbaric Medicine specialist at Aurora Medical Center in Summit. 

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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