Hyperbaric Medicine

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is one of the many things that makes Community Hospital special. It is a treatment in which a patient breathes 100-percent oxygen while inside a pressurized chamber.

Community Hospital's state-of-the-art hyperbaric oxygen chambers are used for the following:

  • selected, non-healing wounds
  • deep-tissue infections
  • chronic bone infections
  • injury from radiation treatment
  • compromised tissue grafts

In Monterey County, we are at sea level. That means we experience 1 atmosphere of pressure during our daily lives. The hyperbaric chamber, on the other hand, can be adjusted to deliver up to 2 additional atmospheres of pressure. Coupled with the inhalation of 100-percent oxygen, this results in a dramatic increase in oxygen to the body's tissues.

The compressed oxygen is dissolved into the blood, which can carry a high concentration of oxygen to damaged tissue. And oxygen is critical for healing. Perhaps the most important feature of hyperbaric oxygen is that it stimulates the growth of new blood vessels, which can then support new tissue growth.

The high concentration of oxygen also improves the efficiency of white blood cells, which helps clear up infection, enhance the performance of oxygen-dependent antibiotics, and reduce edema (swelling) that sometimes gets in the way of healing. "Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can be used for certain non-healing wounds," says Dr. Ed Johnson, panel physician, Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine at Community Hospital. "But we also treat patients who have compromised skin grafts or flaps.

"A bad crush injury to the leg, for instance, can become swollen quickly. But we can reduce the swelling right away, which allows blood flow to become unrestricted. Because this high concentration of oxygen can pass through the bloodstream in the liquid phase, it can get into small spaces, even where tissue might be crushed.

"Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can also stop the progression of gangrene infection because the anaerobic bacteria do not like oxygen. By halting the production of the bacteria, white blood cells are able to get in there and clean things up." In many instances, hyperbaric oxygen therapy supplements traditional treatments such as surgery and antibiotics.