Accidents happen. Many times the wound that results is very healable, but not always. That is when wound healing becomes critical and wound healing centers can help.
Mercy Medical Center recently opened its state-of-the-art Wound and Hyperbaric Center on the first floor of the hospital for outpatients with a team of doctors in various modalities who work with patients.
"It's special to have vascular, plastics, general surgery, internal medicine and podiatry on our panel of physicians,” said Dr. M. Todd Miller, vascular surgeon and medical director of Mercy Wound and Hyperbaric Center.
He said the group of specialists sets wound care at Mercy apart. "Mercy had a long history of offering hyperbaric oxygen therapy to the community, and we are pleased to be offering it once again as part of comprehensive treatment for wounds."
Mercy Medical Center was the first hospital in the area to offer hyperbaric healing in 1986. In 2010, it became the first hospital in the area to acquire a state-of-the-art computerized monoplace hyperbaric oxygen chamber, a single use chamber, improving the patient's comfort and healing. The larger chamber allows patients to stretch out, roll over and move their extremities. It also offers a "smooth ride" pressure change technology that reduces the risk of complications related to middle ear and sinus pressure problems during compression and decompression. These machines offer patients the ability to watch television or listen to music and even converse with others outside the chamber. The Hyperbaric unit closed in 2013, making way for the new center that opened in April.
"Hyperbaric chambers are an advanced modality we use in conjunction with our wound care," said Kimberly Landsberger, a certified hyperbaric technician, nurse and manager of the new Wound and Hyperbaric Center at Mercy. "What happens is the patient breathes in 100 percent oxygen in a pressurized setting, like he or she is scuba diving. We pressurize you anywhere from 33 to 45 feet below sea level, and while you breathe the 100 percent oxygen, it hydrogenates the tissues and blood all the way down into bone, killing off certain bacteria."
Although it cannot help patients with bone cancer, the chamber is used for patients who have late-effect radiation injuries.
"It can actually assist with promoting new tissue," Landsberger said. "These are the largest chambers I have ever worked with. They have TVs with DVD players and Blu-ray, and they can hold patients up to 650 pounds. Unfortunately, some of our patient population is getting larger, and now we can accommodate them."
A technician is always in the room with the patient. The average time inside the chamber is 2 to 2 1/2 hours per day, five days per week. Landsberger said the buildup each day enhances tissue growth and wound healing, fighting a bad infection in conjunction with the center's wound care.
"This is our newest focus in wound healing," Landsberger said. "Basically, if a wound doesn't heal with other treatments, we use the hyperbaric chamber to give the wound a little extra help. We have a complete panel of doctors, including seven physicians that bring a wide range of comprehensive wound management — three podiatrists, a vascular surgeon, general surgeon, plastic surgeon and an internist. It is an multidisciplinary effect in healing so we can give a continuity of care, be it a infection issue or vascular issue."
Every patient is individual, but by using a hyberbaric chamber, it can save a person's limb. It enhances the timing of wound healing, but there is know certain amount of time. That depends on the patient.
Miller said the new unit works with patients who have slow or non-healing wounds, skin grafts, foot or leg ulcers, open surgical wounds, bone infections, wounds from radiation therapy or acute traumatic and crush injuries. Treatments include the removal of dead tissue, taking pressure off wounds, specialized wound dressings and the hyperbaric therapy.
"We are an outpatient service only, but we do see patients after they are discharged from the hospital," Landsberger said. "We do chronic wound care management."
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