PORTSMOUTH, Va. – Medical practitioners learned how clinical hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) can treat medical conditions during a seminar Dec. 11 Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, Va.
The seminar presented by Capt. Bruce A. Cohen, force surgeon at Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC), covered the history of the hyperbaric chamber as well as how oxygen therapy is being used in medical facilities.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a well-established treatment for decompression sickness, a hazard of scuba diving. The therapy is also being used to treat other medical conditions including serious infections, bubbles of air in blood vessels, carbon monoxide poisoning, and wounds that won’t heal.
“For diving emergencies, decompression illness, and air gas embolism, this is primary therapy,” said Cohen. “For everything else, it is adjunct therapy.”
A hyperbaric chamber is a sealed cylindrical chamber that increases the amount of oxygen blood can carry; the increase in blood oxygen promotes healing and fights infection.
“It hyper-oxygenizes the plasma,” said Cohen. “The plasma surrounds the tissues and the organs so they can live. This is one of the reasons why in compression injuries, and similar injuries, this is a really good deal. It’s not the blood supply we’re concerned about, it’s about bathing the tissue in oxygen.”
“I have a select handful of patients that have used the hyperbaric chamber,” said Lt. Craig Folsom, Medical Officer for Coastal Riverine Group (CORIVGRU) 2.
There have been cases in which every treatment has failed. The patient was then referred to receive HBOT which resulted in successful treatment, Folsom said.
HBOT is approved by the Oxygen Therapy Committee of the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society and has few complications. The most common is the inability to equalize pressure in the middle ear which results in barotraumas.
Hyperbaric air therapy originated in 1662 by a British Clergyman who used organ billows and valves to control the flow of air in a sealed chamber. In 1885, recompression therapy was first used on Hudson Tunnel caisson workers, reducing worker mortality rate from 25 percent to 1.6 percent.
After years of practice and progress, the Undersea Medical Society was founded in 1967 by six U.S. Navy diving and submarine medical officers. This added legitimacy to HBOT which led to training and certification programs.
Currently, the Navy owns two fixed chambers to support local diving operations at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story in Virginia Beach, Va., and Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk, Va.
The chambers are used to treat Navy divers as well as participate in the types of adjunct therapy that Cohen presented during the seminar.
The goal of the seminar, said Cohen, was to bring the current indications and applications of HBOT to the area medical professionals.
“I hope it will broaden their knowledge as they consider all treatment modalities for any given condition,” said Cohen.
Additional information on HBOT treatments can be found on the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society’s website at www.uhms.org.