Avera Medical Minute ASL: Hyperbaric oxygen therapy stimulates body’s natural healing response

Published: Mar. 12, 2018 at 11:59 AM CDT
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Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is the latest in healing technology and is now being offered at Avera St. Luke’s in Aberdeen. It stimulates the body’s natural healing response.

Jane Hengel received radiation therapy when she had breast cancer in the 90’s. Years later, side effects from the radiation caused her great discomfort in her jaw area.

“It used to be that it was very sensitive, even the jaw line and cheek bone,” said Hengel.

“She has what’s called osteonecrosis of the jaw. It is where some of the tissue and bone in the jaw is actually died off related to prior therapies,” said Christopher Nelson, certified nurse practitioner at Avera St. Luke’s.

While other therapies haven’t helped Hengel’s radiation side effects, hyperbaric oxygen therapy has.

“We use the hyperbaric oxygen therapy to try to regenerate tissue growth so that we have an improvement in the bone in that area and is also a regrowth of the tissue in that area. Hyperbaric oxygen is a therapy where we put a patient into a chamber where they receive 100% oxygen at pressures higher than the ambient atmosphere. Typically we use pressures of two to three atmospheres,” said Nelson.

Hyperbaric oxygen can lead to faster healing times and benefits a large group of patients.

“Patients who have diabetic ulcers that are not healing, patients who have severe infections like gangrene infections would be candidates for hyperbaric oxygen therapy, patients who have had radiation and have had damage to healthy tissues and those tissues are not healing,” said Nelson.

These treatments are called dives and typically last two hours. Hyperbaric oxygen originally came from the diving community.

“Patients who would experience the bends, which is when you are diving and you come up too quickly develop nitrogen bubbles in your body, they would put them in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber to help dissolve those nitrogen bubbles,” said Nelson.

“It’s just like, not really floating because you know you’re not moving, but it’s just very comfortable,” said Hengle.

Luckily, Hengle didn’t have to travel far for hyperbaric oxygen therapy. The next closest hyperbaric chamber is in Sioux Falls.

“Since the patient does do one dive per day and typically needs anywhere from 30 to 60 dives, it is somewhat difficult for the patient to travel 2 to 300 miles to receive this treatment. So this is a therapy that would’ve been very difficult for her to receive if we didn’t have it here in Aberdeen,” said Nelson.

Hengle is seeing positive results from hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

“The area in the jaw is beginning to heal. Previously, she actually didn’t have any tissue covering that area and she had been like that for quite a while. So this is first time we’ve actually seen regeneration of tissue in that area,” said Nelson.

“I’m just so glad they found some way to do something like this,” said Hengle.

While in the chamber, you can watch or listen to music.

For more information just call 877-AT-AVERA.