What's New

Wound and Hyperbaric Center Opens

Hays Daily News
By KALEY Connor
July 20, 2011

kconnor@dailynews.net

On July 12, Hays Medica Center opened an expanded wound care program, which includes the availability of two hyperbaric chambers to force oxygen into non-healing wounds.

The technology -- originally used at sea to ensure nitrogen bubbles didn't leave scuba divers paralyzed -- has been used for medical purposes since the 1980s. The chambers fill with 100-percent oxygen, which then is forced into blood veins to assist in the healing process, said Dawn Gabel, program director at Hays Med's Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Center.

"It will bring oxygen deep into the veins that the veins aren't able to bring that oxygen itself," Gabel said. "So oxygen in the veins equals healing. And it's that simple."

Patients lie flat in the large, partially see-through chambers for 90 minutes at a time. Though treatment recommendations will vary with each patient, the average duration is 12 days, she said.

Patients using the tube-like chambers will be able to watch television, listen to mp3 players or even read digital books, Gabel said. A radio system will enable patients to communicate with a nurse, who will be present for the entire treatment session, she said.

The main side effect patients might notice is ear-popping, Gabel said, noting pressure will be relieved during the session so patients' ears can pop.

Hyperbaric chambers also can be used to treat carbon monoxide poisoning. Though a rare occurrence, patients suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning previously have been transported to other facilities, Gabel said.

Non-healing wounds are common among patients with heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer. Many area residents are traveling hundreds of miles for hyperbaric treatment, with the closest facility previously offered in Hutchinson, said Chief Nursing Officer Terry Siek.

"It's a very valuable service that we need for our patients," Siek said. Other treatment methods, such as skin grafts and nutrition counseling, likely will be tried before hyperbaric treatment, Gabel said. To qualify for that treatment, the wound must persist for at least 30 days.

Some patients, however, might not immediately be a good candidate for the hyperbaric unit. Patients will be screened to determine the best course of treatment, Siek said, noting medical staff will work to find the wound's underlying cause.

"If there's no circulation (to the wound), it's not doing us any good to force oxygen," he said. "And so we'll do some stuff with peripheral arteries screenings to make sure we even have a blood supply going to the area first. ... There's something that's keeping this wound from healing, and so we want to find the cause as well as treat the wound itself." Hays Med has contracted with National Healing, a national medical company that specializes in the start-up and management of wound centers.

The hospital previously offered a small, one-room wound care center on the main floor. Nurse clinics were offered there and have continued in the new location.

The new facility, located in the basement, features four patient rooms in addition to the large hyperbaric treatment area. The center's staff also has grown significantly -- about two people previously worked in the unit, and that number has jumped to 15.

Another new addition to the facility will be physician clinics. Seven Hays Medical Center specialists will conduct clinic hours in the wound care center. Those physicians are: Dr. Kirk Potter, Dr. Charles Schultz, Dr. Brandon Cunningham, Dr. Zurab Tsereteli, Dr. Zaman Khan, Dr. Anthony Hornick and Dr. Alex DeCarvalho. Three mid-level providers also will work in the new unit.

"Each of the 10 providers were providing wound care in different, various ways. Depending on their specialties, different things would come up," Gabel said. "To come together like this increases the knowledge."

Wound center staff also will remain in contact with the patient's primary care physician, she said.

"Wounds that don't heal are very frustrating for the doctors and other providers, because you want to get the person well," Gabel said. "There can be several different things that can be happening there, and that's what we're here for is to help figure that out."