OakLeaf Medical Network Healthy Viewpoints, Winter 2003
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Kirk Dahl, MD

Hyperbaric Oxygen
An Advanced Therapy Option

Kirk Dahl, MD
Medical Director
OakLeaf Advanced Wound Care & Hyperbaric Medicine Center
Eau Claire

OakLeaf is pleased to introduce hyperbaric oxygen, now available in our area for the first time. Although the concept is old, this type of treatment has gained new and widespread acceptance in the light of recent research supporting its effectiveness. It is now used to help cure a variety of conditions which can otherwise be fairly difficult to treat.

This is helpful because a patient breathes pure oxygen at high pressure, the oxygen entering the blood is at a concentration of up to 2000 percent higher than when simply breathing room air. Then, as the blood circulates, an exceptionally high concentration of oxygen is presented to internal organs or tissues where inadequate oxygen supply may be delaying or preventing a cure. The high oxygen level can stimulate the growth of new blood vessels, promote the production of new tissue cells and improve infection control.

Until recently, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, known as HBOT, was not generally available for routine treatment. Hyperbaric treatment facilities were large, expensive and hard to maintain. Their use was often restricted to military, industrial and experimental purposes. More recently hyperbaric “chambers,” as they are called, are able to be built at reasonable cost and are safer and more comfortable to use than ever.

More recent research has established that HBOT is the best treatment available for some illnesses and is widely recognized as part of the standard care for treating certain other conditions.

HBOT has not previously been available in the Chippewa Valley area, but now the OakLeaf Advanced Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine Center has become the first in the area to provide this service.

Hyperbaric ChamberHyperbaric oxygen is widely used for diabetic patients who have skin ulcers or other wounds that are slow to heal due to the circulation problems some diabetic patients develop. These wounds typically respond much better to standard wound care when HBOT treatments are added as part of the treatment plan. Not all wounds benefit, but non-healing skin ulcers, poorly healing surgical wounds and wounds resulting from radiation treatment are also often successfully treated with hyperbarics.

Other conditions for which HBOT has been shown to be effective include certain bone infections (chronic osteomyelitis), crush injuries, gangrene, carbon monoxide poisoning, brain abscess and other complications from radiation treatment. It is the best treatment available for decompression illness (“the bends”), certain kinds of poisoning and a rare condition called gas embolism.

Interestingly, hyperbaric oxygen does not work well for many conditions for which one might think it would be helpful. Experimental studies have shown it to be of little or no benefit in treating heart attacks, strokes, dementia, weakness, respiratory disease and many other conditions. If you have questions about whether HBOT might benefit you, check with your doctor, or call our clinic at 715.839.6869. Our staff is also available to assist with insurance authorizations.

Treatment in the hyperbaric chamber is comfortable and safe. Patients generally do not feel the increased pressure, and many patients simply relax, watch TV or even sleep through the treatment. For most conditions, multiple treatments are required, with most sessions lasting about 90 minutes. Each treatment is supervised by both a hyperbaric technician and a physician trained in administering this exciting treatment option.

If you or your doctor feel HBOT may be helpful to you, we welcome you to call or make an appointment to learn more. We are proud to be the first in our area to offer this treatment, and we are anxious to help those who may benefit from it.

Dr. Dahl – Medical Director
OakLeaf Advanced Wound Care & Hyperbaric Medicine Center
For information or to schedule an appointment:
715.839.6869 | www.oakleafsurgical.com
Dr. Dahl sees patients in Eau Claire.