Healing a serious wound could be as simple as letting a patient lay down while watching television.
Inside a plexiglass tube filled with pressurized oxygen, patients rest on a bed, talk on the phone, watch a movie and sleep while they heal chronic wounds in 90-minute increments, five days a week.
This is using hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital will introduce to local patients around mid-August. These machines in the hospital’s Wound Care Clinic will serve as an additional means of helping to heal those with serious wounds.
Used for several decades for this purpose, hyperbaric oxygen therapy allows patients to heal in 20 to 30 sessions as they breathe 100 percent oxygen.
“The oxygen environment and the pressure allow the body’s own immunity to build up,” Brian Downs, D.O. from the Wound Care Clinic said.
The computerized machine is most often used for people with diabetic foot ulcers, bone infections and radiation injuries, comprising about 95 percent of patients.
“This is not a (one) day type thing where we stitch things up and it’s done,” Downs said. “These are chronic wounds that do take weeks to heal. We have to address all the underlying factors.”
Benefits to this type of treatment include healing wounds faster, reducing the risk of infection, preserving injured tissue, getting oxygen to the tissue and growing new blood vessels.
It took 10 years to get the funding for the two chambers, Downs cited. The Wound Care Clinic has been open at the hospital for about 14 years, he said.
The nearest hospitals with this treatment option are in Palmdale, Camarillo, Los Angeles and Bakersfield.
“This is really a unique treatment that we can present to our community that they can’t find anywhere else at any other facility within a reasonable distance,” Downs said.
There are minimal risks in using this treatment method, according to Downs, who said it suitable for most patients to use excluding those with claustrophobia. Other than equalizing ear pressure as someone would on an airplane, it’s a relatively uncomplicated process, he said.
Oxygen therapy is done in conjunction with regular wound care, including cleaning and medicating the wound.
This treatment is covered by Medi-Cal and other insurances so patients do not have to pay out of pocket.
Patients will be able to begin hyperbaric oxygen therapy as soon as the California Department of Public Health completes the hospital’s inspection of the machines.