How hyperbaric oxygen therapy heals wounds

  • Dr. Aurel Mihai is a board-certified wound care and hyperbaric medicine specialist at Concord Hospital Wound Healing Center. Courtesy Concord Hospital.

Published: 12/9/2019 8:45:37 AM

Dr. Aurel Mihai explains why hyperbaric oxygen therapy can be a powerful tool in treating patients with stubborn, non-healing wounds.

What are the main causes of wounds?

■Venous stasis where an increase in pressure and buildup of fluid prevents nutrients and oxygen from getting to tissues. The lack of nutrients causes cells to die, tissues to become damaged and wounds to form.

■Arterial disease is a condition that affects the arteries of your body where you don’t get blood to a site on the body. Without oxygen-rich blood the tissues of the body break down and wounds form.

■Prolonged pressure on a site of the body will break down skin causing wounds to form. Most often, this is a result of being incapacitated temporarily or permanently. For example a bed-ridden individual or a paraplegic or quadriplegic.

■Neuropathy results in a lack of sensation over pressure points on the foot and leads to breakdown of tissue and eventually to a wound known as a neuropathic ulcer.

■Diabetes causes neuropathy and arterial disease often resulting in wounds that have characteristics of both.

■Other special cases like skin cancer. Melanoma, for example, can present as a wound.

What’s the difference between normal and delayed wound healing?

A normally healing wound progresses smoothly and rapidly through the phases of wound healing, while non-healing wounds stall. A non-healing wound is generally defined as a wound that will not heal at least halfway within four weeks. If a wound doesn’t get halfway better by one month than it likely won’t heal completely within three months.

What are advanced treatments for non-healing wounds?

Advanced wound care treatments may include a variety of products and methods including silver dressings, collagen dressings, low-frequency ultrasound therapy, negative pressure wound therapy, skin substitutes, and hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

What is hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is an advanced wound treatment to increase a person’s blood oxygen level, which can prevent tissue death, promote healing, and help fight infection. This treatment involves a person being in an enclosed chamber while 100% oxygen is pumped in at high pressure. Breathing the high-pressure oxygen enhances the antimicrobial effects of the immune system, reduces swelling while flooding the tissues with oxygen, and stimulates the development of new blood vessels.

Does insurance pay for hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

Insurance companies and Medicare cover the cost of the treatments for certain indications including severe diabetic foot ulcers, bone infection not responsive to conservative treatment, and late effect radiation injury.

(Dr. Aurel Mihai is a board-certified wound care and hyperbaric medicine specialist at Concord Hospital Wound Healing Center. Dr. Mihai recently presented on the care and treatment of non-healing wounds at the November Concord Hospital Trust “What’s Up Doc?” Donor Lecture Series. The monthly series features members of Concord Hospital’s medical staff speaking to Concord Hospital Trust donors about new and innovative medical treatments and services. You can watch Dr. Mihai’s presentation on Concord Hospital’s YouTube channel at:

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