It’s a basic instinct to reach for a Band-Aid or call a doctor when you suffer an injury. It might take a day or a week, but eventually your injury heals and you’re back to normal.
However, what happens if your injury doesn’t heal like it should?
If your body’s “behind the scenes” wound-healing capabilities are compromised, no amount of Band-Aids or Neosporin will generate the results you need.
Sometimes the best solutions — like hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) — can only be found by looking outside the box. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a unique type of wound care scientifically proven to enhance healing and health.
If your second-degree burn, bacterial infection, or other injury simply won’t respond to standard healing treatments, hyperbaric oxygen therapy could be just the wound care solution you need.
What Is Hyperbaric Wound Care?
Hyperbaric wound care offers a safe, natural, and efficient medical therapy for non-healing wounds and other conditions that resist standard treatments. Using nothing but 100% oxygen at pressures above regular atmospheric pressure, HBOT nourishes wounds with pure oxygen.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been used since the early 1900s to treat decompression sickness. Divers who surface too quickly are vulnerable to decompression sickness caused by air bubbles in the body. Treatment in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber returns the diver to their original diving depth, allowing a gradual reduction in pressure to slowly reduce bubbles in the body and save their life.
Over the years, research has indicated the vast potential for HBOT to be used as an alternative therapy for many other conditions. From burn care to carbon monoxide poisoning, HBOT offers a unique and painless way to overcome serious health conditions and injuries.
What Makes HBOT Such a Powerful Tool to Treat Chronic Wounds?
Under normal circumstances, only red blood cells transport oxygen through the blood. This often deprives important tissues of oxygen, especially after an injury. Unfortunately, oxygen has a profound influence over wound healing, and any oxygen deficiency stunts the body’s ability to heal injuries.
Without oxygen, cells can’t produce the energy needed for bacterial defense, collagen synthesis, regeneration, or any other essential reparative functions. Instead, the healing process slows until it comes to a full halt. It’s not enough to simply inhale oxygen — the body needs concentrated oxygen flow to overcome its deficiencies.
HBOT makes it possible to deliver the concentrated oxygen needed for wound healing. Using a special hyperbaric chamber, this therapy helps oxygen dissolve directly into all of the body’s fluids so that it can thoroughly permeate areas where circulation has become reduced or blocked.
This essential benefit of hyperbaric wound care stimulates and supports the body’s own healing process. When white blood cells receive enough oxygen, they can effectively kill bacteria, reduce swelling, and allow the rapid reproduction of new blood vessels. HBOT even enables cells to build new connective tissue and improve organ function.
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What Wounds Can HBOT Treat?
Since HBOT addresses wound healing at a deep cellular level, it can be used to treat a wide range of injuries and health conditions.
Diabetes is known as a condition relating to blood sugar, but the complications of diabetes affect wound healing as well. Minor wounds, cuts, and burns that non-diabetic adults might ignore can cause serious health issues for those with diabetes.
Diabetes affects wound healing because chronically high blood glucose impairs the function of white blood cells. Without powerful white blood cells to unleash at the time of injury, your body fails to efficiently fight bacteria. Diabetes also causes poor circulation, which slows the flow of red blood cells and makes it even more challenging for wounds to receive the oxygen and nutrients they need to heal.
To make matters worse, diabetes causes nerve damage that diminishes awareness of injuries, especially on the feet. It’s common for those with diabetes to suffer foot injuries without knowing it, leading to infections that fester without treatment or attention.
As a result of these complications, men and women with diabetes often experience wounds that can’t heal paired with dangerous bacterial infections. Fortunately, HBOT delivers enough pressurized oxygen to stimulate the white and red blood cell actions needed to support healing. HBOT is especially helpful for diabetic foot injuries like ulcers.
Traumatic or Surgical Injuries
Open wounds, whether suffering from a traumatic incident or as the result of a surgery, make the body susceptible to serious infections, especially if the wound is near a bone. HBOT offers a solution for surgical wounds, grafts, flaps, and other problems that need accelerated healing to protect the body from infection.
Radiation treatment is designed to kill cancer, but unfortunately it also damages healthy tissue and restricts blood flow. Many cancer survivors find themselves seeking treatment for soft tissue and bone wounds months or even years after completing radiation treatments.
HBOT enhances oxygen-rich blood flow to overcome the effects of radiation and trigger deep healing along uncomfortable radiation wounds. This saves cancer survivors from additional health dangers and stops potential infection in its tracks.
In addition to diabetic wounds, surgical injuries, and radiation wounds, hyperbaric wound care solutions can also address abscesses, bone infections, gangrene, sudden hearing loss, and carbon monoxide poisoning.
When Is the Best Time for HBOT?
Wounds come and go, but if you have noticed that a wound on your body is not healing or responding to traditional wound care techniques, it’s time to undergo HBOT. The alternative is waiting weeks or months for healing that may not come, and in the meantime you’re at higher risk of infection and complications.
It’s a great idea to see if your insurance covers HBOT so that you can speed up the process of your healing and finally feel better!
What Does HBOT Treatment Feel Like?
Hyperbaric therapy used to create an unpleasant experience using small chambers that felt more like coffins than medical treatments. However, today’s HBOT technology is so advanced that it’s a relaxing and enjoyable experience — especially when you visit a practice committed entirely to hyperbaric medicine like R3 Wound Care and Hyperbarics.
When you visit R3, you receive HBOT in a private setting with the latest hyperbaric technology. Your treatment takes place in a clear acrylic chamber where you can comfortably recline and view your surroundings at all times. You’ll be able to hear and speak to your treatment team as they monitor your entire procedure.
Once you’re in the hyperbaric chamber, you relax in a comfortable cotton gown with pillows and blankets as the atmospheric pressure and oxygen levels gradually increase. The treatment is painless, although you may experience a sensation of pressure in your ears, very similar to the sensation you feel in an airplane while descending. During your treatment, which lasts about one and a half to two hours, you can sleep, watch TV, listen to music, or just relax. Sounds more like a mini-vacation than a medical treatment!
The Most Important Parts of the Process
Like most effective medical treatments, HBOT delivers optimal results through a series of treatments. The experienced team at R3 recommends sessions five days a week when possible, though it’s not required. Daily treatments help maintain high oxygen levels in the body and produce the best outcomes, but if life circumstances intervene, the R3 team will help you create a schedule that maximizes your lasting results.
You can expect to feel great after your hyperbaric oxygen sessions, but keep in mind that you might experience extra fatigue after your first few sessions as the oxygen kicks in. As soon as your body adjusts, you’ll enjoy extra energy and renewed rejuvenation.
If you’re diabetic, make sure you talk to an R3 professional about your blood sugar before heading into HBOT. The hyperbaric oxygen can drop your blood sugar significantly during the 90-minute treatment, so it’s important to enter HBOT with blood sugar levels high enough to prevent low glucose symptoms.
The Bottom Line
You shouldn’t be forced to live with the uncomfortable and dangerous complications of a wound that can’t heal properly. Whether it’s from radiation treatment or a severe burn, some wounds need the stimulation of pressurized oxygen to finally fight bacteria, repair tissue, and return your body to normal.
Only a strategic and high-quality hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatment can deliver the wound-healing results that you need. The team at R3 Wound Care and Hyperbarics offers state-of-the-art HBOT treatments designed to address your unique medical needs and help you enjoy your life without the hindrance of chronic injuries.
Learn why HBOT is the treatment you’ve been missing all this time.
Leslie Morris is a Physician Assistant at R3 Wound Care & Hyperbarics, a state-of-the-art wound care & hyperbaric oxygen therapy outpatient clinic with locations in San Antonio and DFW.