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The Healing Power of HBOT

Hyperbaric Therapy Provides a Remarkable New Treatment for Wounds that Won't Heal

Charles Partain climbed into the hyperbaric chamber and took a two-hour "dive" in an effort to heal a foot ulcer. But this dive wasn't in water. It involved pressurized, pure oxygen therapy.

The Advance, Mo., man faced the possibility of having his right leg amputated below the knee because of a serious infection that went all the way to the bone. His treatment included pure oxygen therapy, repeated fi ve days a week for eight weeks for a total of 40 treatments. He believes his leg was saved by the oxygen therapy at Southeast Hospital, vascular surgery to improve his right leg's blood fl ow and the amputation of his big right toe.

Charles and his wife, Nadine, appreciate the quality medical care he received. "We're just thankful," she says.

The couple now has a renewed appreciation for the simple pleasures in life. A former funeral director and retired furniture and appliance store owner, Charles once was an avid hunter. Although he no longer hunts, he and his wife often spend weekends at a lake cabin near Arab, Mo., surrounded by countless wildlife. Tall pines provide a natural canopy that extends down to the lake. He and his wife spend hours sitting on their broad wooden deck, viewing the pastoral landscape.

Deer, turkey and other wild animals frequently visit their property, where Charles and Nadine regularly put out corn for the wildlife to eat.

Under Pressure

Charles received a new lease on life thanks to hyperbaric oxygen treatment, or HBOT. Paul Spence, M.D., with Southeast Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine, says HBOT promotes healing. At the Wound Care Center, HBOT is used to treat 15 different diagnoses, ranging from diabetic wounds to crush injuries to carbon monoxide poisoning.

HBOT increases the amount of oxygen to the tissue and helps produce new blood vessels, which aids in the healing of wounds, Dr. Spence explains.

During treatment, patients lie fl at in a chamber that is pressurized to a level comparable to diving 33 feet beneath the sea. "We call it a dive," Dr. Spence says. It takes about 15 minutes to pressurize the chamber. "You take them down slowly." After treatment, it takes another 15 minutes to depressurize the chamber.

When Wounds Won't Heal

Dr. Spence fi rst saw Charles on May 14, 2007, and eight days later Charles underwent vascular surgery, which included placing a stent. He then received his first hyperbaric treatment on May 30. On June 18, his right big toe was amputated. The hyperbaric treatments resumed on June 27 and continued through mid-August.

HBOT: A Brief History

The origins of hyperbaric medicine are closely tied to deep-sea diving.

Alexander the Great was the first person to take a "dive." The Macedonian ruler used diving equipment designed to extend the limits of underwater activity when he was reported to have been lowered into the Bosporus Straits in a glass barrel during the siege of Tyre in 320 B.C. In the 1800s, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, or HBOT, was used clinically. HBOT was tested and further developed by the U.S. Navy after World War I. It has been used safely since the 1930s to help treat deep-sea divers suffering from decompression sickness, commonly referred to as the "bends."

Clinical trials in the 1950s uncovered a number of benefits from exposure to hyperbaric oxygen.

In more recent years, more clinical applications of HBOT were introduced when it was discovered that some healing could be greatly accelerated by using a combination of pressure and pure oxygen. HBOT has proved to be life and limb saving, as well as cost effective and therapeutic for various medical conditions.