The Hyperbaric Medicine program at Westchester Medical Center, the flagship of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth), recently received Accreditation with Distinction from the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society (UHMS) for its comprehensive hyperbaric oxygen therapy program that offers 24/7 services to the sickest patients in our region.
Only 206 hyperbaric centers nationwide seek designation from the UHMS out of the thousands that offer the service and among that group, a mere 12% of the centers receive the notable Accreditation with Distinction designation. This is due to the society’s 1,600-criteria survey that assesses factors including a center’s 24/7 availability, the number of physicians trained to provide the service (24 at Westchester Medical Center) and the academic nature of the program in a tertiary care facility.
“Westchester Medical Center’s hyperbarics program has the highest acuity patients in our region, some with complicated wounds that have failed treatment at other facilities and have persistent symptoms, and others with effects of prior radiation, carbon monoxide poisoning, sudden vision loss and traumatic injuries,” said Kausik Kar, MD, Medical Director of the Hyperbaric Unit at Westchester Medical Center. “We are proud to have received this distinction for our comprehensive program and exceptional team of clinicians who provide vital and lifesaving care for our patients.”
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a treatment used to help the body heal after extreme injury or difficult to treat wounds by delivering high doses of oxygen greater than barometric or sea-level air pressure. The treatment provides oxygen to tissues in a patient’s body in a quantity that cannot occur through any other form of oxygen treatment. The increased oxygen promotes the body’s own healing mechanism and helps the patient fight infections.
In existence for more than 30 years, the hyperbaric medicine program’s multi-disciplinary approach to successful chronic wound treatment includes patient nutrition, medication, transportation and social services, as well as specialized vascular, general and reconstructive surgery, physical therapy, and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy.
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About Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBO2 or HBOT) is a unique method of delivering high doses of oxygen in order to help the body heal. "Hyperbaric" means greater than barometric or sea-level air pressure. It is accomplished by breathing 100% oxygen while inside a Hyperbaric Chamber that is pressurized to greater that normal barometric pressure. At normal atmospheric pressure the only way oxygen can be carried to body tissues is by the red blood cells.
The increased pressure produced in the hyperbaric chamber permits the oxygen you breathe also to be dissolved in the liquid (plasma) part of your blood. This extra dissolved oxygen in the blood plasma permits the delivery of oxygen to tissues in your body in amounts that cannot occur by any other form of oxygen treatment. This increased oxygen promotes the body's own healing mechanisms and helps fight infection.
HBOT is an "adjunctive therapy"; that is, it is used along with other forms of medical treatment prescribed by your doctor. HBOT is not a "cure all," but a part of your total medical or surgical care. The extra oxygen not only helps wounds heal; it also stimulates the body's own immune system and helps the body fight infection.
Each treatment takes approximately 90 minutes. Patients are generally treated once a day, 5 to 6 days per week, for a total of 20 to 60 treatments depending on the medical condition and response to therapy. Some medical conditions may require therapy twice a day. During the therapy, you may watch your favorite movie or TV program, listen to the radio, or even sleep. You are always in direct communication and under the visual supervision of our staff.
Normally, the only significant side effect is that it is necessary to equalize the pressure in the ears. A few patients have noticed an improvement in vision; others have had a slight worsening of their vision over a very long course of treatment. This is only a temporary condition, so save your glasses, because if your vision changes, it will normally return to its pretreatment condition. If you have a change, you should wait 3 or 4 months after you have finished treatments before having your eyes reexamined.
If you have cataracts, there is a remote chance they may ripen. If you have questions about this, our staff will be glad to answer them for you.
The first thing you must do to prepare for your treatment is to change into a garment made of 100% cotton. You may come to the hospital already dressed in clean all cotton clothes. Many patients like to wear a sweatshirt and pants during treatments.
A Technician will assist you in lying down on the couch and will place you in the chamber. Now we are ready to pressurize the chamber; this is when you need to equalize the pressure in your ears.
As the treatment begins you will hear some noise, like wind blowing, as the chamber fills with oxygen. Compression takes about 4-10 minutes and you will have to equalize your ears several times during this phase. Notify the Technician at the first sign of discomfort in your ears or sinuses so we can stop compression and help you equalize.
You will notice the chamber gets warm during compression. When our treatment pressure is attained, we will continually ventilate the chamber with fresh oxygen and control the temperature during the entire treatment.
After your treatment is finished we slowly decompress the chamber. This takes about 4-6 minutes and you will notice that the chamber temperature is cooler. You don't need to blow into your ears during the decompression phase. Your ears will clear automatically, but you may notice a "crackling" or "popping" sound. This is completely normal.
A Hyperbaric Treatment is much safer than, for example, flying in a commercial airplane. To eliminate any risk to your safety while inside the chamber, we take several precautions. Precautions include electrically grounding your body to the chamber, and the use of 100% Cotton to eliminate any possibility of static electrical sparking that might occur with synthetic fabrics. Here are more precautions:
THE FOLLOWING ITEMS ARE NOT ALLOWED INSIDE THE CHAMBER:
Smoking materials, lighters, or matches
Hand warmers, or any device that may create heat, fire or sparks
Vaseline or oil based products like lipsticks, hair oil, hair spray, make-up, and skin lotions
Hearing aids, some pacemakers, and other electronic devices
Newspapers, or other loose papers except one book or magazine
Synthetic garments such as polyester, nylon, rayon, etc.
False teeth or other appliances; consult the technician about this.