The Hyperbaric and Wound Care Center at Fort Duncan provides advanced treatment options close to home.
Non-healing wounds can be a source of great concern and discomfort to patients and, if left untreated, could lead to serious consequences like amputation. Edwin Pua, RN, a clinical nurse manager in the Hyperbaric and Wound Care Center at Fort Duncan, has been helping to heal stubborn wounds for nearly 20 years. “We use treatments like compression dressings, negative-pressure wound therapy and advanced skin substitutes to help heal chronic ulcers and wounds,” he says. He adds that non-healing wounds that start to adversely impact a deeper structure – like a bone, tendon or joint – may be considered for hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
“Hyperbaric oxygen therapy delivers 100% oxygen to the patient inside a pressurized chamber,” says Pua. “Some of our patients have problems with circulation and one of the reasons that the wound may not be healing is because insufficient levels of oxygen are reaching the wound,” he adds. “The concentrated oxygen supplied during a hyperbaric treatment is breathed in by the patient and delivered to the wound through the bloodstream, which helps to facilitate healing.”
Pua says that a typical candidate for hyperbaric treatment might be a patient with a lower extremity wound caused by diabetes. This can happen when excess glucose levels in the blood cause nerve damage that leads to loss of feeling. Without pain to alert the patient, a cut or ulcer may go unnoticed and worsen over time. “If a patient has a wound like this that is not responding to standard treatment, the doctor might order a test to see if a deeper structure is involved,” says Pua. “If so, hyperbaric oxygen therapy could be added as an adjunctive therapy, meaning that it would be used in combination with other treatments, like antibiotic therapy.”
“This advanced treatment modality is usually only available in bigger cities,” says Pua. “I think the community is very fortunate to have a treatment like this available right here,” he adds. Because a typical hyperbaric therapy regimen includes daily treatments, he says that it would be difficult for a patient to travel long distances every day for treatment. “We’re here to share our expertise with the community,” he adds. “There was a definite need for a treatment like this and we are meeting that need.”