Oxygen Therapy: Saving Diabetics

FRESNO, Calif.

For some patients, it's not a new drug or surgery that's saving their feet. It's a treatment that doesn't require them to move a muscle.

For Earl Rutledge, this isn't a simple afternoon stroll; it's a major milestone.

"Two months ago, I didn't think I could do this, but now, everything's possible," Rutledge told Ivanhoe.

Rutledge's diabetic. Blood wasn't circulating to his feet. An ulcer began growing and growing.

"Most times, they say, that means the foot is dying," Rutledge recalled.

Four different antibiotics failed. Amputation was on the horizon. As a last resort, Rutledge went into the chamber: a hyperbaric oxygen chamber where patients are immersed in 100-percent oxygen at two atmospheres of pressure.

"They absorb it into their plasma, and by getting it into the plasma, that will actually get oxygen to an area where there's inadequate blood flow," Derall Garrett, the hyperbaric safety director at University Community Hospital, in Tampa, Fla. told Ivanhoe.

It helps stimulate the growth of new blood vessels, which improves circulation and healing. In a study, 89 percent of patients using the hyperbaric therapy avoided amputation compared to 60 percent who received conventional therapy.

Besides diabetic wounds, the chamber is used to heal trauma injuries, bone infections and radiation burns. Patients stay in the chamber for two hours a day, five days a week for about two months.

As for Rutledge ...

"In his initial assessment his tendons were showing on his foot and with 32 minutes of hyperbarics he was able to completely heal," Doctors said.

His foot is still a little swollen, but he can now leave his crutches - and worries of an amputation -- behind.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is covered by insurance. In terms of health care costs, it's estimated an amputation procedure costs eight-times more than oxygen therapy. It's not a good treatment for people with seizures or respiratory problems.

Will Darnall, Public Relations Office
University Community Health
Tampa, FL
(813) 615-7395

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