Treatments used on wounds that otherwise can be difficult to heal
Last November, Paul Kinach began receiving treatment for an ulcerated ankle at the Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Oxygen Center at Chandler Regional Medical Center. Kinach had been told by physicians in Syracuse, New York, where he began treatment about a year ago, that healing his wound would be an “uphill battle.”
When Kinach moved to south Tempe, he began receiving care at the center. After six months of regular treatment, his ulcerated ankle healed.
“My experience there was first class al the way,” he said.
“I would not hesitate to recommend the place to anybody. I had no complaints whatsoever, and the doctors and nurses were all on the same track. It’s nice to be able to walk again without pain.”
Kinach is one of many patients who have been successfully treated at the Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Oxygen Center over the past decade. This month, the center celebrated its tenth anniversary.
Terri Harris, the center’s director, said when it first opened in May of 2003, it offered only wound care to its patients. As the center grew both in volume and the number of patients it treated, it added hyperbaric oxygen therapy to its treatment options.
“We have remodeled three to four times in the last 10 years, and still have the same number of physicians,” she said.
Brian Paterick, M.D., medical director of the Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Oxygen Center, said that center specializes in caring for people who have wounds that are not healing on their own.
“We can treat any wound here, including complicated wounds that will not heal,” he said.
About half of the patients they see go through hyperbaric oxygen treatment, which Paterick said involves surrounding a patient with 100 percent oxygen at a higher than normal atmospheric pressure, similar to what a deep sea diver experiences around 33 feet below sea level.
Each session involves spending about 90 minutes in the chamber, Paterick said, and most patients have 20 to 30 treatments over the course of four to six weeks.
The oxygen level keeps climbing with each session, Paterick explained, which increases the amount of dissolved oxygen in the patient’s blood, allowing it to go directly to the wound and stimulate healing. The person’s whole body is inside the tube during the session, and he or she is breathing the pure oxygen, which gets it into the bloodstream and to the area that needs it the most. Most patients who are in the chamber do not typically feel any different than usual, Paterick said, aside from maybe being a bit thirstier due to the oxygen drying out their mucous membranes.
“Hyperbaric treatments can be used for bone infections that are not healing, soft tissue necrosis and many other types of injuries,” Paterick said.
Paterick said he and the other physicians at the center treat a lot of patients with diabetes, because they are more likely to have issues with wounds like pressure ulcers on the buttocks, heel or foot that do not heal properly.
“A lot of vascular issues also come into play here, and we want to determine if a patient has vascular problems, so we can order tests that analyze the body’s ability to get blood to the skin. It’s part of the specialized treatment of wound care we offer, where we look at the whole picture and what is going on with the patient.”
Paterick is proud of the work he and the other physicians have done at the center over the course of the past decade. He said the center recently received its third accreditation since 2005 from the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society (UHMS). Chandler Regional Medical Center is the only hospital in Arizona to receive this honor, Paterick noted, which signifies the highest quality of hyperbaric medical care the center offers.
Looking ahead, Harris said the center has plans to increase the number of hyperbaric chambers over the next few years.
“We have two, and are looking to add three more. We have ordered two brand new chambers that accept patients up to 700 pounds,” she said, adding that the new chambers will also be 41 inches in diameter instead of 30 inches.
“They will be much larger and much more comfortable and less claustrophobic for the patients,” she said. “We are very excited about the new chambers.”
The Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Oxygen Center is located at 1875 W. Frye Rd. in Chandler. For more information, visit www.ChandlerRegionalorg.
The center’s staff is able to treat a variety of non-healing wounds and injuries including:
• Any wound not healed within 30 days
• Diabetic ulcers
• Failing grafts and flaps
• Pressure ulcers
• Radiation destruction
• Superficial wounds
• Surgical wounds
• Wounds on lower legs or feet