BY DR. JOSE FARIAS and DIANA F. RAMIREZ
The air we breathe is made up of 21 percent oxygen, which is enough sustain life on Earth. So what happens if we breathe in 100 percent oxygen? This is enough oxygen to revolutionize the healing process.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, which is also known as HBOT or HBO, is a way to provide patients with oxygen in a pressurized environment. A “Hyperbaric Chamber,” which basically looks like a glass tube and something similar to a “pod” you’d expect to see in a sci-fi flick, helps introduce 100 percent oxygen to patients to assist in healing a variety of conditions, including stubborn diabetic wounds.
The pressure in the chamber, equal to the amount of pressure if you were at a depth of 33 feet below sea level, helps the oxygen travel through blood and plasma, ensuring that the oxygen gets to the desired areas all the way down to the cellular level. Oxygen, when used with hyperbaric chambers, can help encourage the growth of new blood vessels where previously damaged tissue or vessels occurred.
Diabetes, left unmanaged, can lead to lost sensation in the feet. Any abrasion to the skin, such as a small cut or scrape, can fail to heal if the immune system is compromised. A wound that would have healed normally on a non-diabetic person, can become larger and more complex to treat in someone with diabetes. Wounds that won’t heal are serious, and complications such as infection can result in patients who do not seek proper treatment. In extreme cases, it may be necessary to amputate limbs, which should be a last resort.
Today, the use of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is growing at a rapid rate, and is becoming the norm, rather than the exception, in mainstream medicine. Some of the conditions treated at the McAllen Medical Center with hyperbaric oxygen therapy include arterial insufficiencies, carbon monoxide poisoning, gangrene, infected skin grafts and flaps, crush injuries and skeletal muscle-compartment syndromes, delayed radiation injuries, refractory osteomyelitis and severe anemia.
As you can see, this type of therapy is not just for diabetic patients, but the diabetic patient is more prone to suffering from wounds in general.
If you have a wound that won’t heal or any of the conditions mentioned, you should inquire further with your primary care physician about whether hyperbaric medicine could be right for you. You can also consult with a wound care center. The information you receive may very well create an opportunity for you or a loved one to have a better quality of life!
The Rio Grande Valley Diabetes Association is a local non-profit organization whose mission is dedicated to the prevention of diabetes and its complications through educational services, early detection and awareness. The RGVDA’s focus is to bring attention on a growing health epidemic that affects one out of every four people in Hidalgo Country, making it one of the worst afflicted areas in the country. Type 2 diabetes is preventable and also manageable through a healthy regimen of exercise and dieting. The RGVDA also offers free monthly cooking and provides monthly articles to The Monitor to help educate the public on diabetes.
Dr. Farias is a general surgeon with Valley Care Clinics and the Medical Director of the Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine Center at McAllen Medical Center and Diana F. Ramirez is the executive director for RGVDA.