Stan Bialoski, wound care nurse, left, Royce Read, M.D., director of Memorial Health System’s hyperbaric wound care center, and Tim McCarty, hyperbaric/respiratory therapist, right, monitor a patient in the hyperbaric chamber.
Diabetics over the age of 60 make up more than half of the patients using the wound care center and hyperbaric chamber at Memorial Health System of East Texas. However, Medicare does not provide coverage for the hyperbaric treatment of diabetic wounds in the lower extremities, yet.
In determining whether to provide insurance coverage for hyperbaric treatment for diabetics, Medicare officials are evaluating how certain types of diabetic wounds, especially those in the lower extremities, benefit from hyperbaric oxygen treatment. Wound care nurse
Hyperbaric Oxygen is a mode of therapy in which the patient breathes 100 percent oxygen at pressures greater than normal atmospheric pressure. According to Bialoski and mccarty, when a patient breathes the 100 percent oxygen under pressure, greater amounts of oxygen are dissolved in the bloodstream and carried to body tissues in amounts sufficient to promote a healing effect.
Working in the only hospital-based, certified hyperbaric oxygen chamber between
“Diabetics are our largest patient base,” Mccarty said. “Medicare is just now realizing the benefits of saving someone’s leg or foot rather than putting a patient through surgery and then fitting them for a prosthesis. Plus there are the ensuing costs of replacement of the prosthesis over the years.”
In the six years Memorial has offered treatment in the hyperbaric chamber, more than 2,500 treatments have been provided. That number does not include the patients who come to the center for wound treatment and do not use the hyperbaric chamber. On average, four patients a day are treated in the chamber, five outpatients per day receive treatment other than in the chamber, and Bialoski usually visits 15 patients in their hospital room daily to provide wound care. On average, a patient receives 30 treatments in the chamber with each lasting about an hour and a half.
Patients must receive treatments five days per week for the length of the regime, and it’s a program that cannot be broken, Bialoski said. A patient can watch TV or even sleep while in the clear chamber. During some parts of the treatment, a patient may feel a sensation of fullness in their ears, similar to what is experienced during flying.
Prior to treatment, patients are taught several easy methods to avoid ear discomfort. Patients are monitored very closely while in the chamber, and the improvement in their overall health and wellbeing is part of the treatment, Bialoski said.
Patients can not wear hair spray or fingernail polish into the chamber.
“However, we can lay a patient’s book or magazine on top of the glass chamber and let them read through the chamber wall,”
Hyperbaric Technologist. Diabetics need to be sure their sugar levels are correct or the treatment will not be as effective. Also, smoking and drinking alcohol while taking these treatments can interfere with healing,