The Healing Power of Oxygen

There’s a long history of hospital patients being treated with oxygen, but today, oxygen therapy is not just a tool of lung doctors and respiratory therapists.

A unique type of oxygen treatment known as hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is also playing an important role in helping people get well. HBOT, traditionally thought of as a treatment for diving complications, has in recent years found a place in the treatment of many different illnesses and ailments by the American Board of Medical Specialties.

In June, Saint Alphonsus Medical Center opene4d the Advanced Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine Program to serve patients who have non-healing or complex wounds and certain other diseases. These safe, painless and effective treatments usually last from 1 ½ to 2 hours; patients can relax in a reclined position and watch TV, listen to music, or even nap in a sealed chamber, which is pressurized at up to three times the normal atmospheric pressure. Under these conditions, oxygen levels in the blood increase while concentrations of nitrogen and carbon monoxide go down.

Advanced therapy as you relax:

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves breathing in pure oxygen, which increases blood oxygen levels by up to 10 times. This treatment can promote the growth of new blood vessels, salvage and resuscitate damaged or diseased tissue, expedite wound healing and reduce swelling or inflammation. Restoring or enhancing tissue oxygen levels is also a potent antibiotic.

The Hyperbaric Program includes use of state-of-the-art Sechrist Monoplace 4100 Hyperbaric Chamber, the third one installed in the nation and the largest single-person hyperbaric chamber in Idaho. The roomy interiors which can accommodate patients up to 700 pounds, allow patients to rest comfortably in a reclined position while breathing normally.

The highly skilled team – hyperbaric technicians, physical therapists, a nurse practitioner and medical director – remain in constant contact with every patient throughout the treatment session via the chamber intercom. The new program will help specialists treat inpatients and outpatients for issues such as:

  • Chronic wounds
  • Diabetes-related wounds
  • Certain infections
  • Burns
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Vascular disorder
  • Skin grafts that aren’t healing
  • Venous or arterial insufficiency
  • Tissue damaged by trauma

Providing this new cutting-edge technology and applying best practices to help heal wounds in both the outpatient and inpatient setting is another example of how Saint Alphonsus makes the critical difference.

Dr. Johnson 
Life’s Work

Eric Johnson, MD, is the Medical Director of the new Advanced Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine Program. Initially boarded in Family Medicine, Dr. Johnson has practiced Emergency Medicine since 1989. He is an active scuba diving instructor, which first led to his now-long-standing interest in hyperbaric medicine.

With a long history of outdoor recreational activities, he has specialized in Wilderness and Environmental Medicine with significant experience in the sub-specialties of Altitude and Diving Medicine. He is an internal author and speaker known for his expertise in Wilderness and Hyperbaric Medicine and is published in numerous professional journals.

Dr. Johnson was featured in the 2006 Everest ER documentary for BBC and Discovery and a documentary segment in the History Channel’s “I’m Alive” in 2010. He is a fellow of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine and a past president of the Wilderness Medical Society. Dr. Johnson also is a current member of the Undersea Hyperbaric Medical Society, the American College of Hyperbaric Medicine and the Association for the Advancement of Wound Care.

For more information or a hyperbaric consultation, please call (208) 367-6048.

Article Reviewed: June 15, 2012
Copyright © 2011 CitiHealth
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