Breath of fresh medicine offered

by Briana Sutherland

Contributing writer

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a medical use of oxygen at a level that is higher than atmospheric pressure.

New River Medical Center in Monticello has become the sixth facility in Minnesota to join in the use of hyperbaric medicine. They have been in the planning stage for the past four years and finally received their chambers at the end of September.

William Scheig, medical director, Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine, is next to a hyperbaric chamber.

“Hyperbaric medicine is fairly new to Minnesota,” said Steve Schrupp, emergency services director at New River. “It’s an under-served science.”

The main project with the use of the chambers is to save limbs. Patients must have one of the 13 approved illnesses such as foot wounds, diabetics not healing, venous stasis, bone infections, and cancer and radiation treatment. Ten to 15 percent of patients with non-healing wounds can benefit from HBOT.

“These are some of the things we’re already seeing in the wound care clinic, HBOT is another item to treat with. Not everyone is a candidate,” said William Scheig, medical director of Wound and Hyperbaric Medicine.

By increasing the amount of oxygen a patient’s blood contains, it enables wounds to heal faster. The air pressure inside helps a patient’s blood carry more oxygen to organs and tissues inside their body.

Patients are rolled into the chamber on an adjustable bed surrounded with one- to 1.5-inch-thick acrylic walls. Once the chamber door is shut, pure oxygen is released into the chamber for the patient’s lungs to gather. The air pressure is increased up to 2.5 times the normal atmospheric pressure, with the temperature adjusting according to when it’s pressurizing and depressurizing. There is very little noise while the patient is receiving treatment inside the chamber. Patients can communicate with medical staff via a phone and intercom system while in the chamber.

A typical treatment lasts between 1.5 to two hours, with treatment appointments five days a week. During the appointments, they’re encouraged to bring a movie to watch on their personal television to help the time go by faster. A patient has 20 appointments where the medical staff will reassess their treatment progress and options.

New River anticipates treating six to eight patients a day with their 30-day treatment program, with a total of up to 50 patients a year.

For additional information about hyperbaric medicine, contact the Wound Care Center at New River by calling 763-271-2846.