Arrowhead Hospital unveils hyperbaric chambers


by Jay Crandall

Posted on August 1, 2014 at 9:00 PM

Updated Monday, Aug 4 at 2:19 PM

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Arrowhead Hospital in the northwest Valley is unveiling something new this week. You might call it "a breath of fresh air" in the treatment of wounds.

Dr. Michael Berman, medical director at Abrazo Health’s Arrowhead Hospital Wound Center, showed us the hospital's new hyperbaric chambers.

He explained that the chambers are pumped full of oxygen, increasing a patient's ability to take more oxygen into the body. And that oxygen helps wounds heal, but maybe not in the way you would think.

“It is on your skin," he said, "but actually the effects of topical oxygen on the skin don't have a very good benefit to heal a wound.”

The oxygen heals wounds by being pumped into a patient's lungs and then bloodstream.

“It is what ends up being dissolved in your blood that is free, the floating in the blood and plasma, that is responsible for improving the oxygenation of the tissues for healing purposes," Berman said.

And while the chamber can be used to treat almost all wounds, it is especially useful for diabetic foot ulcers, post-operative infections, and sores caused by radiation treatment.

“It is really (for) the types of patients that have had wounds for longer periods of time,” Berman said.

At the same time, Berman said, doctors work to clear up the underlying health issues, giving patients a fresh start -- wound free.

"So our real goal is to use this to not just speed up but to aid them to be fully healed," Berman said.

It normally takes about 30 treatments to heal a wound. Patients spend 90 minutes in the chamber.

Berman said patients may feel pressure changes similar to what you would notice taking off or landing in an air plane, as the chamber is pressurized.