Treatment closer to home

New wound center brings hyperbaric oxygen therapy to the area

New wound center brings hyperbaric oxygen therapy to the area

February 05, 2007|by JULIE E. GREENE

About three years ago, Daniel Wiley was driving his wife, Cindy, to Rockville, Md., on weekdays for hyperbaric oxygen therapy to treat a recurring back wound.

The Cascade couple made the trip, which took at least 75 minutes, because that's where the closest hyperbaric oxygen chamber was at the time.

When Cindy Wiley needed the treatment again in December, she was able to reduce the drive - and discomfort that comes with it - by going to Washington County Hospital in Hagerstown.

The hospital opened a wound center, which includes two hyperbaric oxygen chambers, in October.

The 100 percent, pressurized oxygen provided in the chambers promotes healing by forming new blood vessels and increasing blood flow to injured tissue, doctors said. The therapy also reduces swelling and fights infection.


Wiley can tell that live tissue has grown in the area of her wound because she can feel the area. Before, there was no feeling.

Wiley received 34 radiation treatments following a July 13, 2001, surgery in which a cancerous tumor and the surrounding tissue - in total about the size of a grapefruit - was removed from near her spine.

The surgery included reconstructive work, moving tissue and muscle in her back to fill in the hole, said Dr. Sal DiMercurio, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon with Cosmetic Plastic Surgery Center at Robinwood Medical Center, east of Hagerstown.

The extensive radiation treatment helped cure Wiley's cancer but also injured tissue, making it difficult for the wound to heal, DiMercurio said.

After repeated troubles with the wound, including it reopening and getting infected, Wiley began hyperbaric oxygen therapy at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville about three years ago.

She went every weekday for 40 treatments during a two-month period, traveling between Cascade and Rockville.

Her wound seemed to be doing fine until shortly before Thanksgiving last year when the tissue started breaking down again.

So Wiley again began hyperbaric oxygen therapy Dec. 12, this time at the new Washington County Hospital Wound Center.

The equipment is better with larger hyperbaric chambers that provide a quieter atmosphere than the one in Rockville, said Wiley, 44, who is claustrophobic.

For each treatment, Wiley spends about two hours in the chamber, including the time it takes to pressurize and depressurize the air inside. The air needs to be pressurized to promote blood vessel growth and heal the wound, DiMercurio said.

She can sleep or watch TV or a DVD on a screen that hangs about two feet from the chamber. That's close enough for Wiley, who is legally blind, to see.

The chambers, which are air-conditioned, cost about $110,000 each, according to hospital spokeswoman Nicole Jovel. Each chamber weighs 2,068 pounds and is 7.22 feet long. The steel and acrylic tube has a 32-inch internal diameter.

According to a hospital press release citing information from Medical Multiplex, a wound management company, complete healing or significant improvement occurs in about 80 percent of cases of hyperbaric oxygen therapy as part of a person's treatment.

Other services

The wound center was designed to monitor, manage and treat chronic wounds that have difficulty healing such as diabetic ulcers, traumatic sores, frostbite, crush injuries and venous stasis ulcers as a result of varicose veins or peripheral vascular disease, said Dr. Thomas Gilbert, the wound center's medical director.

Before the wound center, the hospital had a wound clinic with two clinic rooms on the first floor run mostly by nurses, said Tammi Jenkins, a registered nurse and clinical manager for the wound center. Patients, referred by their primary care doctors, were seen weekly or every two weeks.

The wound center has six clinic rooms and a room for the hyperbaric chambers, all on the seventh floor. Four doctors serve the wound center and patients can be seen daily if needed.

With the doctors on hand, patient needs such as cultures, pain medication and blood work can be taken care of immediately rather than the patient having to wait or come back to the clinic, Gilbert said.

In addition to the hyperbaric chambers, the wound center has advanced wound care products such as bioengineered skin grafts that can be used for diabetic ulcers or venous stasis ulcers, Gilbert said.

The wound center provides a more organized system that allows people to be treated more quickly, saves insurance companies money because patients don't have to be admitted to the hospital and helps doctors coordinate wound care for their patients, DiMercurio said.

It's important for people who need wound care as well as Tri-State-area doctors to know the wound center is available because there are probably still patients and doctors who think patients need to go outside Hagerstown for equipment such as a hyperbaric chamber, DiMercurio said.

Since the wound center's Oct. 18 grand opening, it has treated about 150 patients, including people from Berkeley Springs, W.Va., and Fayetteville, Pa., hospital officials said.

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