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Hyperbaric Medicine Now Offered at Bozeman Deaconess Wound Clinic

March 29, 2007

“I hope it really works on me, I really do,” said Wound Clinic patient Don Suhr, a double amputee whose diabetes makes a pinch sore he got during wheelchair transfer very difficult to heal. If his ulcer heals, he’ll be able to get out of a wheelchair and back on his prosthetic legs. “It” is his series of 90-minute treatments in the new hyperbaric chamber at Bozeman Deaconess.

According to Wound Clinic Medical Director Jon Robinson, MD, studies show that hyperbaric oxygenation therapy (HBO) stimulates blood vessel growth in injured tissues. “Our new hyperbaric medicine program is used for patients fitting very strict criteria--in conjunction with the progressive wound care they’re already receiving at the Wound Clinic here at Bozeman Deaconess,” he said.

What sets the Bozeman Deaconess Wound Clinic apart is its coordinated approach to patient care. People with wounds that aren’t healing need to be seen daily and the Center is set up to do that. ”Primary care physicians are able to refer problem wounds here, even before they become problem wounds,” Robinson notes. “Since the Wound Clinic opened in August 2005, we’ve done half as many amputations,” Robinson said. “We’re not just healing sores, we’re saving limbs. And that is a huge difference in quality of life.”

Wound Clinic Manager Caryl Perdaems, OTR, CLT-LANA, CWS, says “we offer the most up-to-date equipment in our facility. By providing hyperbaric oxygen as an adjunct, we continue to expand our limb preservation program.” The HBO program, launched last month, will largely be used to treat diabetic leg and foot ulcers, certain life-threatening tissue infections, traumatic crushing wounds, frostbite and burns, tissue damage caused by radiation and failure of skin grafts. Bill Robinson, MD, recently completed certification in hyperbaric medicine and sees patients for their 90-minute treatments. The monoplace hyperbaric chamber is located in the new Perioperative Services unit on the second floor of Highland Park 4. Respiratory Therapists who have been trained in hyperbaric medicine provide operational support--and TLC.

How does a hyperbaric chamber work? While there’s a limit to how much oxygen the blood can take in at room atmosphere, increased pressure in the chamber increases the amount of oxygen that dissolves in the blood. It’s rather like being 60-feet underwater where the pressure is five times greater than normal.

Before patients are selected for the relatively risk-free treatments—in addition to Suhr, a patient with radiation tissue damage is being treated—they are given a complete history and physical. Some patients report difficulty equalizing their middle ear during treatment and Bill Robinson says that if decongestants don’t help, an ENT can place tubes that resolve the problem.

Suhr, who can communicate with medical staff during treatments through a telephone, says it’s kind of like being in an airplane. “You yawn ‘til they bring you to pressure,” he said, noting that, even though the chamber is clear plastic, you don’t want to be claustrophobic. Patients enter the chamber with no-vent sippy cups of juice. They breathe pure oxygen while in the chamber; some take ‘air-breaks’ every half hour, breathing regular air—with 21% oxygen-- through a mask.

While Suhr receives his high-tech therapy, he’s watching a black-and-white western on the digital flat screen TV monitor. He finds it comforting that John Wayne “always shoots the bad guys, always gets the girls.”

For more information about the hyperbaric medicine program and the Wound Clinic contact Caryl Perdaems at 556-5512.
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