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Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center’s Hyperbaric Chamber Provides Invaluable Treatment for Broad Range of Conditions

hyperbaric_chamberSince the introduction of the first hyperbaric chamber in Houston at the Texas Medical Center in 1991, tens of thousands of patients have realized the benefits of this unique therapy, which is used to successfully treat a variety of serious and even life-threatening conditions. The chamber is still the largest of its kind in the region, with the ability to treat up to 22 patients at once, and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“We see a lot of patients with carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, which makes our hyperbaric chamber particularly valuable to firefighters and victims of fire,” said Laurie Christensen, director of operations of wound care and hyperbarics at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center. “In the summer, we see an increase in SCUBA divers with decompression sickness and also patients with necrotizing infections from swimming in water with bacteria.”

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, or HBO therapy, enhances the body’s natural healing and strengthens the immune system by delivering 100 percent oxygen with increased atmospheric pressure in a specially outfitted chamber in which the patient wears an oxygen delivery device similar to a space hood. Long used to treat SCUBA divers suffering from decompression sickness, HBO therapy has also proven valuable in treating a myriad of health conditions, from diabetic wounds and air embolisms to crush injuries and brown recluse spider bites.

“We have a three-lock system in which we can treat up to 10 patients at a time in the main area,” said Kristin Smith, RN, manager of wound care and hyperbarics. “We can treat both pediatric and adult patients, even those who are intubated and in critical condition. All of our nurses are ICU-trained and certified in advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) and pediatric advanced life support (PALS).”

As one of the busiest Level I Trauma Centers in the country, they treat many patients with crush injuries, added Smith. “The hyperbaric chamber increases the atmospheric pressure, allowing oxygen to penetrate even the tiniest spaces of your body. This encourages cellular growth, which can be extremely effective for treating trauma patients,” she said. According to Smith, the team recently treated a 17-year-old who had been in an ATV accident, and they were able to save all of his fingers that were crushed in the rollover. “Without the hyperbaric chamber, he likely would have lost all of his fingers, and maybe even his entire hand.”

Time is of the essence when utilizing the hyperbaric chamber, added Smith, and the ideal window for treatment for those with CO poisoning is within the first two hours of exposure. “The hyperbaric chamber is the only treatment available for decompression sickness, and is certainly the gold standard for CO poisoning. The risk of permanent and irreversible neurological damage increases exponentially after the first few hours, so the sooner we see these patients the better.”

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Click here for more information on hyperbaric oxygen therapy at Memorial Hermann-TMC »

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