How Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is Changing the Lives of Idahoans

From wound care to post-traumatic stress disorders

Submitted by Bingham Memorial Hospital

For Kim Sweeney, a resident of American Falls, Idaho, a broken bone, countless surgeries due to her diabetes, and a fight with gangrene, were threatening to take both of her legs. When she wasn’t getting the care she needed or deserved to heal, she turned to the Idaho Doctors’ Hospital Healing Center & Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (Healing Center) in Pocatello, Idaho—one of the largest hyperbaric oxygen therapy and wound care facilities west of the Mississippi River.

The Healing Center, managed by Bingham Memorial Hospital (BMH), is one of only a few hundred facilities of its kind in the nation, and was the first multi-person chamber in the state of Idaho. Since 1999, hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been a valuable tool for physicians around the region. As a non-evasive, drug-free, and highly successful alternative method of healing for the human body, it has helped heal thousands of non-healing wounds, assisted individuals to regain their mobility, given hope to other incurable conditions, and, in many cases, saved lives.

“Inside the chamber, air pressure is raised above normal which increases the capacity of body fluid to carry oxygen,” says Jeff Ellis, director of the Healing Center. “When oxygen levels are increased, the white blood cells can kill bacteria, swelling is reduced, and the body’s oxygen requirements for healing are attained quickly.”

With repeated treatments, the oxygen flow stimulates the body’s healing processes and allows most patients to experience rapid recovery of cognitive and neurological functioning without surgery or drugs.

“Our tri-lock, multi-person chamber is spacious enough to accommodate up to 20 patients and a technician,” says Jeff. “Unlike a monoplace chamber, which is only large enough for one patient. The size of our chamber gives patients the ability to move about during treatment and allows technicians to administer immediate care if necessary.”

What makes this wound care truly different is the use of LUNA Imaging, which provides clinicians with a real-time visual of the tissues that are and are not receiving blood and oxygen.

“What we have the ability to do is inject a dye into the blood stream, and then we are able to watch the blood flow into the extremity,” explains Mr. Ellis. “We are able to discern if there are any blood flow issues that are going to impede healing.”

LUNA affords us a more reliable assessment of tissue perfusion, shows that blood is getting to a desired end point, and quantifies the impact of wound healing techniques like hyperbaric treatment.

“If we can actually show the insurance company that we are proactively following these statistics and making sure we aren’t wasting the insurance company’s money and providing the most efficient and cost effective treatment that we can,” says Mr. Ellis. “It helps everyone. The insurance companies are a lot happier with us and the patients are happy because their treatment time is shorter and the money out of pocket is a lot less.”

“Once I started hyperbaric treatments it was a total 180,” says Mrs. Sweeney. “Shortly after my left limb was completely saved. No further infections. No open wounds. I think it was about two-and-one-half-weeks and they had saved my limb already.”

“With the normal atmospheric pressure which would be considered No. 1,” says Dave Lowry, MBA, assistant administrator at Bingham Memorial Hospital (BMH). “The body’s tissue can only take so much in. Just like if you think of it as a highway, a small two lane highway can only take so much traffic. But if you increase the pressure, which for our perspective increases it to an interstate, it can take a lot more traffic. The thing that hyperbaric medicine does is increase the ability for oxygen to get into the tissue under pressure than it would in a natural state.”

“Right before I started going to the Healing Center I was really nervous to switch from doctors and nurses who already knew my situation,” says Mrs. Sweeney. “But the minute I went there they showed me that they care so much. They care about what they do. They care about you getting better and if you’re not going to get better, they are going to find a different way to approach the situation to make sure you are progressing every week and every appointment. You aren’t going to see a change every time, but you get answers—you get results from it all the time. They go out of their way for you.”

Beyond wound care

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy also aids with the effects of mild to moderate chronic traumatic brain injury, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder among veterans and civilians, who have found conventional drug-based treatments ineffectual or even harmful.

The Healing Center and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Center offers hope and healing for residents of the Intermountain West. The Healing Center offers free consultations. To learn more or to schedule a tour, please call (208) 239-8080.

Idaho Doctors’ Hospital

Healing Center and Hyperbaric O2 Therapy

1125 W. Alameda Road

Pocatello, ID 83201

(208) 239-8080