Hyperbaric Wound Care: What it is and How Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Works

Hyperbaric Wound Care is prescribed for non-healing wounds or chronic wounds.

Wounds, such as diabetic foot ulcers, pressure ulcers, and venous ulcers that are caused due to diabetes or radiation injury, take longer than usual to heal. This happens due to low oxygen levels in the blood due to poor circulation.

Hyperbaric Oxygenation increases the oxygen levels in the blood, which helps fight bacteria and encourages the release of stem cells that promote healing.

How does Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Wound Healing Work?

An injury damages the body’s blood vessels. This leads to fluid leaking into the tissues and swelling. The swelling reduces the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the damaged blood vessels, which causes the tissue to die.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy or Hyperbaric Oxygenation increases the oxygen level in the blood reduces the swelling and the chances of tissue death. Besides this, HBOT:

  • strengthens the white blood cells
  • helps them destroy the infection-causing harmful bacteria
  • stimulates the formation of new blood vessels, which helps heal the wound.

What Wounds Can Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) Treat?

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) helps treat the following wounds:

  • Diabetic Wounds: Diabetic foot ulcers are the most common type of diabetic wound caused due to uncontrolled blood sugar levels. They occur under the big toes and the balls of the feet and, if left untreated, can affect the bones. They form due to a breakdown of the tissue and exposure of the layers beneath.
  • Traumatic Or Surgical Injuries: Traumatic injuries are physical injuries caused due to motor vehicle accidents, sports, falls, burns, or natural disasters. These cause systemic shock or shock trauma and require immediate medical attention and surgeries to save a life.
  • Radiation Wounds: Radiation wounds are caused by acute or chronic ionising radiation. Radiation is a standard cancer treatment. Its aftereffects are injuries that involve the skin, its underlying soft tissue, and the bone. Radiation impacts the body’s natural healing process and leads to non-healing wounds.

Risks Involved in Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy:

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is usually a safe procedure with rare chances of complications. However, it is important to share your medical history with your doctor before the procedure.

Potential risks of the therapy are:

  • Middle Ear Injuries: The air pressure during the therapy might cause an eardrum rupture and fluid leakage.
  • Temporary Nearsightedness: Or myopia, which is caused due to temporary eye lens changes. It gets resolved within some days or weeks.
  • Lung Collapse: It is caused due to changes in air pressure.
  • Seizures: Excess oxygen, or Oxygen Toxicity, in the central nervous system causes seizures.
  • Lowered Blood Sugar: People who have diabetes who need insulin treatment may suffer from reduced blood sugar levels.
  • Fire: In rare cases, the high oxygen levels in the chamber could lead to a fire.

During the Procedure:

The Hyperbaric chamber for wound care has two types: A clear, plastic chamber designed for a single patient, and the other is intended for several people and resembles a large hospital room.

HBOT Procedure:

During Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, the air pressure in the room is raised to two or three times the normal air pressure. This creates a feeling of fullness in the ears, similar to your experience in an aeroplane. The sensation can be relieved by yawning or swallowing. The therapy lasts for around two hours, during which the wound care specialists monitor the patient and the therapy unit.

Steps of the Procedure:

  • The patient is asked to wear a medical gown, taken into the chamber, and asked to lie down on a clear, plastic tube that is around 7 feet long
  • They are asked to relax and breathe normally and permitted to talk to the therapist during the therapy
  • The chamber is then sealed and filled with pressurised oxygen
  • The pressure rises 2.5 times the normal pressure, which causes mild discomfort
  • The session lasts from 30 minutes to 2 hours
  • The technicians then slowly depressurise the chamber

Precautions and Prescriptions:

People who have had recent ear surgery or ear trauma, cold or fever, lung disease, or suffer from claustrophobia should avoid this therapy.

After the procedure, the doctor checks the blood pressure, pulse, and blood glucose levels if the patient has diabetes.

Conclusion

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is used for the effective treatment of non-healing wounds. It is helpful for people suffering from diabetic foot ulcers or those who have undergone radiation treatment, trauma, or surgery. Doctors prepare a detailed plan for the therapy and any drugs or other therapies necessary for the patient.

FAQs

What does the word hyperbaric mean?

The word hyperbaric is related to greater than normal pressure of oxygen. The oxygen level during Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is 2 to 3 times higher than normal. This helps increase the oxygen level in the blood, which improves the body’s ability to fight infection and heal a wound.

What is the most common complication of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?

Barotrauma is the most common complication of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy. The middle ear is an air-filled cavity behind the eardrum. During the therapy, if the air pressure in the middle ear can’t be balanced with the external pressure, the eardrum could bow inwards. This could lead to pain, rupture, and possible hearing loss.

What are the side effects of a hyperbaric chamber?

The side effects of a hyperbaric chamber for wound care are:

  • Fatigue
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fluid buildup or bursting of the middle ear
  • Sinus damage
  • Oxygen poisoning, which may lead to lung failure or seizures

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