Modern Medicine: Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Modern Medicine: Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

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A chamber once used for diving purposes is showing benefits in the medical world.  Bay Medical Center's Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy can help promote wound healing and treat certain types of infections.

Hyperbaric medicine is now being used to help patients who've had head and neck cancer. Radiation therapy used to treat this type of cancer can weaken the teeth and jaw, eventually leading to a condition called Osteoradionecrosis, which means cell death due to radiation.  Hyperbaric medicine can help prevent this from happening.

Barbara Jones was diagnosed with throat cancer four years ago. She went through chemotherapy and radiation.  When Jones needed to have mouth surgery later, her Dentist recommended Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy.

Hyperbaric Specialist Dr. Brook Tracy says, "Hyperbaric medicine is the administration of oxygen under pressure equivalent to placing a person inside a chamber much like a submarine...bringing them to a pressure of 2.4 atmospheres."

Patients are typically given 90 minutes of oxygen per treatment at the equivalent of a 45 foot sea water depth to promote healing.

"How does it do this?  It supersaturates with oxygen and promotes new blood vessel formation and new bone formation," Dr. Tracy explains.

The treatment isn't painful, and patients can even watch movies while they're in the chamber. Jones was prescribed twenty treatments before her mouth surgery and ten after. 

"The healing was perfect because of the hyperbarics.  [I'm] really thankful," Jones said after having her mouth surgery. 

Patients will experience pressure changes during treatment, much like going up and down in an airplane, but the staff does teach patients how to equalize the pressure in the ear drums during treatment.