NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Wounds that don’t heal properly are a major medical problem, affecting more than six million Americans.
Whether it’s due to diabetes, infection or poor circulation, CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reports the solution might be as simple as oxygen.
What looks like a space pod from a science fiction movie, is actually a medical device – a hyperbaric oxygen chamber. They’re now a common sight at wound care centers across the country.
“What we’re trying to do here at the wound center is heal wounds, clear up cystitis, hemoraphic cystitis, oral problems where there’s not enough blood or oxygen to heal the wound and fight infection,” said Dr. Ashish Gupta, with the Center for Wound Care.
The process is deceptively simple. Patients are put into the chamber for an hour and a half to two hours for 40 to 60 treatments. Pure oxygen is pumped in at two to three times normal pressure, while the patient watches TV.
“Bacteria do not like higher concentrations of oxygen, and tissues love higher concentrations of oxygen. We are all breathing about 21 percent oxygen,” Gupta explained. “When you are in the chamber, all your organs – every part of your body – sees and recognizes that increased oxygen.”
While hyperbaric oxygen is pretty well tolerated, some patients do have some pressure-related issues with their ears and nose, and others can suffer oxygen toxicity. So doctors are always close by to ensure safety.
Some of the best candidates for the therapy are patients with foot and ankle ulcers from diabetes or poor venous circulation.
Hyperbaric oxygen has become a standard of care for non-healing wounds and carbon monoxide poisoning, but it’s also being experimented with to treat problems from strokes and concussions to cerebral palsy and even autism.
Dr. Max adds those experimental uses are not proven, so the procedures may not be covered by health insurance.