Wilkes Regional Medical Center officially cut the ribbon on its new wound center May 2, with hospital staff and local officials attending.
The office has been treating patients since January 4.
Wilkes Regional is now home to a new - and old - medical technology. The hospital is now home to two new hyperbaric chambers, essentially long glass tubes made of one inch thick glass that allows the pressure inside to rise to as high as five atmospheres (atms).
One atmosphere is what the average person feels at mean sea level, 14.7 pounds per square inch (psi).
Five atmospheres is equivalent to roughly 132-165 feet below sea level.
Chris Jordan, a former scuba diving instructor turned safety director for the program, said the facility can go as high as five atmospheres, but only goes to two for treatment.
Jordan is very familiar with diving and said the use of hyperbaric chambers has been used for some time to treat decompression sickness for divers before becoming a medical tool for wounds.
It is also useful for treating wounds. The center uses the pressurized oxygen to stimulate blood flow and increase the rate of healing from the inside outward.
Photographs were posted on a bulletin board in the room illustrating the effects.
A foot was severely cut on its bottom, providing photos that looked as if the foot had been filleted open heel to toe. The patient’s foot had a scar following the 30-40 day treatment but the wound had healed completely.
The standard treatment is two hours a day for 30-40 days, with two patients being treated simultaneously. Following that most patients are able to be released as patients, either completely healed or healed to an acceptable level for further surgery, as in the case of amputees.
Jordan said the machines can treat wounds such as bleeding ulcers, diabetes and amputations. Burns are also treatable with the chambers, but the hospital is not using them for that task.
If an amputee is treated the goal is not totally recovery but healing enough to allow a patch of skin to be grafted to the amputation area.
The center’s director Susan McUmber said one woman recently finished treatment for a similar case. McUmber said the site of the woman’s amputation had, previous to treatment, been an irregular color and unable to bleed due to blood vessel damage.
Following her treatment the wound is a fleshy color again and able to bleed freely, allowing her to have the skin graft.
Ten to 20 percent of the center’s patients qualify. Patients must pass a series of checks before they may be eligible to participate, including questions over their potential claustrophobia. Jordan said the patient had to remain in the chamber for the prescribed time and could not go in and out, otherwise the procedure would not be of benefit.
McUmber said the first rotation of patients were finishing up now, allowing the center to begin treating new patients.
Jordan said few hospitals in the area had this type of technology, making Wilkes the area’s main provider for the services.
The rest of the center houses four exam rooms, an office, and a help desk. It is located in the back of the hospital’s diagnostic center in the West Park campus. Previously the rooms were unused, allowing the wound center to move in and set up shop.
To contact Taylor Pardue call 336-835-1513 ext. 15, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.