Helping Patients With Difficult to Heal Wounds

  • Summer 2021

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Brookings Health System Wound Center, an outpatient facility offering a comprehensive approach to helping patients with non-healing wounds, recently added hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) therapy to its service offerings.

HBO therapy is a medical treatment prescribed by a doctor to enhance the body’s ability to heal. During hyperbaric oxygen therapy, the patient breathes 100% pure oxygen while inside a pressurized chamber. The pressure inside this chamber is about two and a half times greater than the normal pressure in the atmosphere.

This high-pressure environment allows the blood to carry more oxygen to all parts of the body to repair injured tissue. HBO therapy also helps to fight certain infections, such as those that occur in the bone.
Many different conditions benefit from HBO therapy, especially chronic, non-healing wounds. HBO therapy is often used in conjunction with other treatments. Conditions treated with HBO therapy include:

•   Diabetic foot ulcers
•   Chronic bone infections (osteomyelitis)
•   Non-healing surgical skin flaps and grafts
•   Symptoms caused by radiation therapy (such as pain, wounds, rectal or bladder bleeding)
•   Crush injuries

HBO therapy is an outpatient procedure that is provided once daily; the number of treatments is based on a patient’s wound type and care plan. One treatment takes about two hours and is quite comfortable for most patients.

Once a patient is inside the hyperbaric chamber and the door is closed, oxygen will begin to circulate as the technician starts the gradual increase in pressure. This is called compression. Some patients experience a temporary warmth, but after the initial compression period, the temperature will regulate and be very comfortable.

During compression, patients may feel a fullness or popping sensation in the ears; similar to what is felt while flying in a plane or driving in the mountains. The HBO technician teaches patients how to clear their ears to relieve this sensation.

The compression period generally lasts between 10 and 15 minutes. Once the compression period is over, the fullness in the ears subsides. Patients remain in the chamber for 1.5 to 2 hours. During this time, patients can rest or sleep, watch television or listen to music.

Near the end of the treatment, the technician will gradually decrease the pressure inside the chamber. This is called decompression.

The Wound Center is equipped with two hyperbaric chambers and is open weekdays. For more information about wound care or to schedule an appointment, call (605) 696-8068 or visit online at