When Oxygen Becomes Critical Medication

Value of hyperbaric oxygen therapy

SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) -- We breathe oxygen to help our bodies produce energy and our body tissue to function. But sometimes oxygen can be a critical medicine for patients to heal.

When our bodies' tissue is significantly injured, even more oxygen is required to survive. A 65-year-old Plymouth man shared his story of how oxygen is playing a significant role in his recovery from a serious infection.

What was demonstrated at Geisinger CMC in Scranton was a hyperbaric technologist assisting a volunteer into a hyperbaric oxygen chamber. It's used to treat troublesome wounds that won't heal in patients like Frank Meredick. "And it was constant, constant pain," he said.

The source of Frank's pain was a gaping, softball sized ulceration following surgery in March to remove a cyst from his back.  Because he had also been treated for cancer, he developed radiation tissue injury triggering the troublesome wound. Geisinger Critical Care Physician Laurie Loiacono, MD said, "It affected every aspect of his daily existence." Frank added, "The wound was so big that this was the only thing that could be done."

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy provides pure, 100 percent oxygen or nearly five times the amount of oxygen we normally breathe. "Hyperbaric oxygen therapy supercharges the tissue's ability to heal," said Dr. Loiacono. The air pressure inside the chamber is three times higher which allows blood to carry oxygen throughout the body at an accelerated rate. "It affects in a positive way the wound healing process not only by making tissues healthier but by activating the cells that are involved with wound repair," she said.

Frank received the treatment up to five days a week, two hours at a time through August. He said it took him about a good week to get used to the hyperbaric oxygen chamber but the benefits he experienced were undeniable. Frank said, "It shrank quite a bit," he said referencing the size of his chronic wound. While he's discontinued hyperbaric oxygen therapy, his recovery continues. "I still have more to go but it has I would say it's probably 75 to 80 percent better."

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is used in a wide variety of conditions. Besides wounds like Frank's, the treatment is helpful in cases like carbon monoxide poisoning, thermal burns and even near drowning, stroke and lyme disease.
 


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