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At the Wound Center in Lorain: New Hope for People with Chronic, Non-Healing Wounds

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A wound that won't heal can affect every aspect of your life. It's depressing, because it limits your ability to take part in daily activities. Often, the wound is on your foot, which means you can't wear shoes. Non-healing wounds usually smell bad. They can keep you in a wheelchair. Probably most distressing of all, if the wound never heals, studies show there's a 40 percent chance the foot will need to be amputated. And amputation is often the beginning of a slide down a slippery slope that leads to poorer and poorer health.

Healing requires oxygen

When your body is functioning well, wounds heal because your circulatory system allows oxygen to get to the wound site. For people who have problems with circulation, the healing process can take much longer. Diabetic foot wounds are some of the most common chronic wound problems.

One solution to the problem of chronic wound healing is the hyperbaric oxygen chamber, which delivers 100 percent oxygen to the patient. The problem with traditional chambers is that they provide room for only one patient. Treatment in these chambers can be anxiety-provoking and claustrophobic, considering that most patients spend 90 minutes to two hours in the chamber at a time, typically 5 days a week for 6 to 8 weeks.

In fact, the experience in these chambers can be so difficult for some people that they often don't complete their treatment, which increases the likelihood that their wounds will not heal.

New oxygen chamber provides a much improved experience for patients

The Community Health Partners Regional Wound Care CenterĀ® & Burn Program in Lorain has acquired a new, state-of-the art hyperbaric oxygen center that has revolutionized the patient's experience of this type of wound healing. The environment within the chamber is compressed air, which is two to three times greater than atmospheric or sea-level pressure. Over time, treatment in the chamber can create new blood vessel formation within a wound, which greatly improves healing.

Ron Gordon, Co-President of Mobile Hyperbaric Centers, which provides these chambers to hospitals throughout the country, says, "The new multi-place chambers can accommodate 10 patients and one technician at a time. We have four treatment sessions per day. It's a little bit like being in an airplane, with first class seats. Patients receive the oxygen through a hood-it's like an astronaut's hood that's clear all around. There's a 30-inch television in the chamber. We subscribe to NetFlix. There's even one group that plays Texas Hold 'Em in there."

In the older chambers, explains Dr. Gordon, patients were enclosed in a tube. The tube was closed, and oxygen was pumped in. It was difficult for patients because they were alone in the tube the entire time. In the new chambers, says Dr. Gordon, "There's a technician in there 100 percent of the time. The technicians are trained in emergency medicine. The tech can check patient's blood sugar levels, help them if they're nervous and just help them out in general. If one person needs to leave, they're able to do so without disrupting the treatment of the other patients."

Giving patients a life again

There are about 400 of these new hyperbaric oxygen chambers located throughout the country. "The heal rate," says Dr. Gordon, "is 90 to 95 percent."

The compliance rate among patients who get treatment in the multi-person chambers is 90 percent. Dr. Gordon says it's extremely rewarding to know that amputations are being prevented and people's lives are vastly improving. He's especially encouraged that Medicare and Medicaid are now covering this type of treatment.

"As patients begin to feel better," he says, "they begin to take a more active role in healing themselves. They understand the importance of being involved in their own care. They're also healthier. They can't smoke in the chamber. They're a captive audience, so we have an opportunity to teach them about caring for themselves. They're not wheelchair-bound, they don't have malodorous wounds anymore. They can wear shoes again. Their spirits are lifted. They're not as depressed. This wound healing goes beyond the chamber. It affects their entire lives.

"We're brining modalities to them where the answer isn't amputation. Instead of showing patients a knife, we're giving them a life again."

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