Healing Under Pressure
A Testimony of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy By Kathy Summers
HBOT for Angiogenesis
Last summer I broke the neck of my femur clear through (technically a hip fracture) when my horse launched me like a rubber band into the dirt. But that wasn’t the scary part. The fracture was nothing compared to how I felt when the emergency room staff said the words “hip replacement. ”My orthopedic surgeon decided to try setting the bone first, but he gave me slim odds for healing. He said I had almost certainly severed the capillaries that feed the head of the femur, and with no backup blood flow it would begin to die (called avascular necrosis or AVN). When I asked what I could do to prevent this, he said, “Just one thing: hyperbaric oxygen. ”I immediately signed up for 20 daily treatments at Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn in Scottsdale, Arizona.
How HBOT Benefits Maximum Medical Improvement
To benefit from this peculiar therapy all you do is breathe. The key is to breathe 100 percent pure oxygen through a mask or hood for one to two hours a day while sitting in a pressurized chamber. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) works according to a simple law of physics that says oxygen under pressure dissolves into the body’s fluids—including blood plasma, lymph, and cerebral spinal fluid—where it can speed healing.
Hyperbaric hospitals and clinics typically operate monoplace chambers that resemble glass coffins, but I shared dives (as they sometimes call the treatments) in a 12-person multiplace chamber that looks like a submarine. Other than some ear pressure and temperature changes similar to landing in an airplane, the experience is comfortable with no serious side effects.
In cases like mine, HBOT can help the body develop new blood vessels [angiogenesis], remodel bone, and reduce secondary swelling and bruising if it is provided soon enough after the injury or surgery. “When you reduce the inflammatory edema you get rid of the bruising a lot quicker, so you get better circulation to the injured areas,” says Dennis Weiland, MD, Scottsdale Healthcare’s director of hyperbaric medicine. In fact, not only did my deep bruises disappear quickly, I healed completely with no complications and no need for a hip replacement. I was lucky because few orthopedic surgeons refer hip fracture patients for HBOT. Doctors are more likely to prescribe the treatments for wounds that won’t heal.