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Center for Wound Healing & Hyperbarics Latest News and Health Articles

  • HBOT Can Benefit Patients After Major Skin Cancer Treatment

    May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. Did you know that 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime? If detected early, most basal or squamous cell cancers are highly treatable. But in some cases, a more invasive cancer like melanoma may require surgery and radiation therapy. Skin grafting, or the removal of skin from an unaffected area and using it to cover lost or damaged skin, is sometimes also needed for wound closure and healing.

    The surgical application of skin grafts or flaps can increase the likelihood of infection so great care must be taken during recovery. Some surgical sites do not heal properly because radiation can dramatically reduce blood flow and much-needed oxygenation to the skin and tissues. If wound healing is significantly compromised, the patient’s physician – typically an oncologist, dermatologist or plastic surgeon – may recommend hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) to promote healing and preserve the skin. It is a safe, non-invasive treatment that targets and repairs damaged organs and tissues.

    During HBOT the patient is placed in a hyperbaric chamber and breathes 100 percent oxygen under atmospheric pressure up to three times higher than normal. This boosts oxygen levels in the affected tissues, helps prevent infection, and promotes healing by encouraging the formation of new blood vessels.

    In addition to faster healing, HBOT can reduce the need for additional surgical procedures. It can also help patients avoid further trauma and negative psychosocial effects due to aesthetics. Many skin cancer patients who require skin grafting report that HBOT has given them a new lease on life. If you or someone you love has had aggressive treatment for skin cancer and suffers from a non-healing wound, ask your physician about hyperbaric oxygen therapy. For more information please contact the Center for Wound Healing & Hyperbarics at 580-531-6441.

  • Amputations Can Be Prevented

    April is Limb Loss and Limb Difference Awareness Month, a time to educate the community about limb preservation and emphasize the importance of early evaluation and treatment to prevent amputations. 

    Of the estimated 150,000 lower limb amputations performed in the U.S. each year, approximately 82 percent stem from a diabetic foot ulcer. When a patient with diabetes fails to keep blood glucose levels under control, a lack of blood flow to the lower limbs can result in the development of ulcerations or open sores. Symptoms include redness, increased warmth or firmness around the wound, swelling, extra drainage, pus or odor. 

    Some patients with diabetes also develop peripheral neuropathy, or a loss of sensation in the lower limbs and feet. A simple cut or scrape can remain undetected and quickly develop into a severely infected wound. Patients often find themselves in the ER with a systemic infection and need urgent treatment. 

    It’s important for anyone with diabetes or cardiovascular disease to examine their feet and legs daily. If a wound does not heal on its own within 30 days, the risk of amputation and early death increases. In fact, a recent study shows that lower limb amputations have a three-year mortality risk of 71 percent.

    “A chronic diabetic foot ulcer is one of the most common conditions we treat and early evaluation is critical to help avoid limb loss,” said Jennifer James, MD, Center for Wound Healing & Hyperbarics at Southwestern Medical Center. “With proper intervention, most chronic wounds can be healed within four to six weeks and in most cases, amputation can be avoided.”

    Wound treatment typically includes debridement, or the removal of dead tissue, management of the infection with the application of advanced wound care dressings or medications, off-loading or taking pressure off the area, and of course, keeping blood glucose levels under control. When a wound still does not respond to standard treatment, hyperbaric oxygen therapy or cellular tissue products (skin substitutes) may be indicated.

    It’s important to be proactive and examine the feet and legs every day. Here are four tips for limb preservation, particularly for individuals with diabetes:

    1. Be on the lookout for early warning signs of a diabetic foot ulcer including cuts, sores or blisters on the feet or toes that won’t heal. 
    2. Because diabetic neuropathy can prevent you from feeling very hot pavement or other items that could injure the feet, it’s important to not walk around barefoot and wear properly fitted footwear. 
    3. Keep the feet clean, moisturized, and covered! Safely trim your toenails and if you have difficulty caring for your own nails, seek help. 
    4. Manage blood glucose levels. For diabetics, the best way to prevent foot problems is to keep glucose levels under control. It will also help wounds heal more quickly.

    The Center for Wound Healing & Hyperbarics at Southwestern consists of a multidisciplinary team of specialists dedicated to healing wounds, saving limbs, and improving the lives of our patients. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 580-531-6441.

  • Better Eating can Promote Wound Healing

    March is #NationalNutritionMonth, a time when healthcare providers across the country focus on helping patients optimize nutrition for better health. Many individuals battle non-healing wounds stemming from diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or other underlying health issues. Limb loss is a big concern because every day in the U.S. 230 patients with diabetes suffer an amputation. And approximately 85 percent of these cases begin with a diabetic foot ulcer that won’t heal. 

    Our wound care team is committed to preserving your limbs by healing your wound as quickly as possible. It’s very important to collaborate with them during treatment and nutritional intake is a critical piece of the puzzle. Here are six tips to boost the healing process with a proper diet:

    1. Protein is a major building block in wound healing because it builds muscle, skin, and other body tissues. Eat protein-rich foods including lean meats and seafood, skinless poultry, eggs, and tofu. Yogurt is also a good source but it’s important to check the sugar content.
    2. Vitamin C is often aligned with wound healing because of its role in collagen formation. Consume at least one daily serving of Vitamin C from good sources like oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, broccoli, kale, or red & green peppers.
    3. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day. Water is ideal but if you consume other beverages be mindful of sugar intake.
    4. Eat “good” carbohydrates if you are trying to control your weight. Whole-grain and high-fiber carbohydrates are found in whole grain breads, cereals, brown rice, beans, fruits with skin and berries.
    5. Multivitamins and mineral supplements are sometimes recommended for patients who do not consume an optimal diet or have medical conditions that impact nutritional intake. A supplement can help fill in the gaps. Discuss supplementation with your physician before starting one.
    6. If you need help, consider meeting with a Registered Dietitian (RD) to learn more and create a customized eating plan. Medical nutrition therapy with an RD is covered by most insurance plans as well as Medicare Part B.

    Click here for more information about our service or if you would like to speak with someone about a non-healing wound, contact the Center for Wound Healing at Southwestern Medical Center, 580-531-6441.

  • Benefits of HBOT for Cancer Patients with Radiation Damage

    by Catherine Phipps, PA, Center for Wound Healing & Hyperbarics at Southwestern

    Last year, half of the nearly 2 million people diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. underwent radiation therapy to destroy malignant cells. Thanks to new developments in radiation oncology, many patients end treatment and start a new life chapter. However, even though radiotherapy is very good at killing cancer cells, it can also impact nearby healthy cells. Some patients experience delayed radiation injury – painful and occasionally life-threatening side effects that present themselves months or even years later.

    Approximately 30,000 of the 2 million U.S. cancer patients treated with radiotherapy last year will eventually report symptoms including significant pain, infection, bleeding, and physical discomfort. Radiation damage can occur just about anywhere on or within the body including the head and neck, chest wall, abdomen or pelvis. For example, patients who receive pelvic radiotherapy for urological cancers may experience significant abdominal pain, urinary frequency or urgency, and blood in the urine. Patients with head or neck cancer can suffer from osteoradionecrosis, a condition in which bone tissue weakens and deteriorates. It is an unusual but serious complication that can result in death of the bone and surrounding tissues and can lead to bone exposure through the skin. Again, these symptoms can appear years after treatment.

    The likelihood of radiation damage depends on several factors including a patient’s sensitivity to radiotherapy, the type and dose of treatment, and the location of the cancer. Scarring, infection, and a lack of blood supply to treated areas can result in damage or death of surrounding tissues. 

    Radiation injury can greatly impact a patient’s quality of life; therefore, finding symptomatic relief is worthy of investigation. For some patients, hyperbaric oxygen therapy can eradicate long-term damage, allowing them to get back to their lives and/or successfully undergo additional reconstructive procedures such as breast or facial surgeries. With limited treatment options for radiation damage, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a viable non-invasive treatment to consider.

    Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy: Providing Symptom Relief for Patients with Radiation Injury

    First used in the U.S. in the early 20th century, hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) has emerged as a very effective treatment for patients suffering from the late effects of radiotherapy. HBOT can revitalize damaged tissues by bringing nutrients and oxygen to the areas that need it most through the growth of new blood vessels and increased circulation. This stimulates the healing process and can greatly improve the patient’s quality of life. 

    During treatment, the patient is given 100 percent oxygen in a pressurized hyperbaric chamber. The increased oxygen greatly enhances the ability of white blood cells to kill bacteria and reduce inflammation while allowing new blood vessels to form in affected areas. In other words, it speeds and promotes healing.

    Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is very helpful for patients suffering from radiation injury because exposing the body to high levels of oxygen under pressure increases blood flow and vascularization to the area, which promotes healing. Increasing oxygen concentrations in the blood can be a tremendous help for people with radiation damage or chronic wounds. It offers a huge potential benefit with low risk.

    How Do You Know if HBOT Treatment Might Help?

    If you are a cancer survivor experiencing considerable pain or discomfort months or even years after radiation therapy, consult your physician. If HBOT is indicated, treatment should begin as soon as possible. Most insurance companies will cover HBOT with proper documentation. It should be noted that HBOT is a serious commitment of time and effort on the part of the patient, requiring daily appointments, sometimes for several weeks, for 10-60 treatment sessions. It’s important to note that HBOT is mostly reserved for outpatient treatment. For more information, contact the Center for Wound Healing & Hyperbarics at Southwestern, located at 5606 SW Lee Blvd. in Lawton, by calling 580-531-6441.

  • SWMC Honors Model Patient After Successful Treatment of Severe Wounds Following Battle with COVID-19

    Southwestern Medical Center (SWMC) honored Bobby Gordon, the first Wound Care Hero Award recipient from the Center for Wound Healing & Hyperbarics, in a ceremony today at the hospital's Centennial Room.

    In November 2020, Mr. Gordon contracted COVID-19 and was hospitalized and placed on a ventilator. His month-long battle to survive left him with painful pressure injuries (also known as bedsores) on several areas on his body. Upon discharge from the hospital, his physician referred him to the Center for Wound Healing & Hyperbarics for outpatient wound care.

    “Serious pressure injuries require a significant commitment to treatment, on the part of the patient, to avoid infection, sepsis, and possible limb loss,” said Catherine Yore, PA-C and wound care expert. “Mr. Gordon’s wounds were quite severe and he has been seeing us every single week for almost a year. He’s been a model patient and his family has been very helpful with dressing and monitoring the wounds at home. He consistently enters our clinic with a cheerful greeting and positive attitude.”

    Because of his extraordinary and inspirational commitment to healing, Mr. Gordon was honored with the Wound Care Hero Award. The award is sponsored by Wound Care Advantage and recipients are selected based on their commitment to treatment and positive attitude.

    “I wouldn’t wish my experience with COVID-19 on anyone, and for a while I didn’t know if I was going to make it,” said Mr. Gordon. “I’m so appreciative to the wound care team at Southwestern Medical Center because they have been so respectful, caring and professional. They took really great care of me.”

    “Our entire staff has enjoyed getting to know Mr. Gordon and his family and he’s almost ready for discharge,” said Yore. “We want his wounds to heal so he can be as close to his previous status as possible, but we’re also going to miss him when he ends treatment!”