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New tech expands MGH treatments

CHAMBERS: Marion General Hospital wound center director James McCullaugh talks about the benefits of using hyperbaric therapy to treat patients in the wound center. The chambers will be pressurized with oxygen, which helps stimulate the body with the natural healing process.

by Andrew Maciejewski - amaciejewski@h-ponline.com

Patients forced to commute up to two hours for certain medical issues that are not responding to traditional treatments will no longer need to go out of county after Marion General Hospital (MGH) unveiled two new hyperbaric chambers on Monday.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, also known as HBO therapy, involves the use of pressurized chambers to help make pure oxygen available to the body’s tissues, which stimulates the natural healing process.

James McCullaugh, MGH wound center administrative director, said patients typically spend two hours in the pressurized chamber for around 30 different sessions, which can lead to committing about four hours on treatment days if patients are driving to Kokomo, Muncie or the Fort Wayne area, where the technology is currently offered.

“It’s nice to have another weapon in our arsenal to treat wounds, especially for those patients where everything else has been unsuccessful in the healing process,” McCullaugh said.

“There is a lot of our population in Grant County where transportation is a big issue, so this being available in their own community is a big plus,” MGH clinical nurse manager Carolyn Smith added. “Plus we are right on a bus line, so those people who don’t drive, they can come in for treatment.”

Smith said the wound center will use the technology for cases where traditional treatments are not working to help treat diabetic foot ulcers, bone infections and damage caused by radiation.

Patients will be able to watch TV or take a nap as they recline inside the chamber and let the science and technology do the work, she says.

The experience is similar to flying in a plane, since you can feel the pressure building in your ears, according to Smith.

“If you’ve been flying, you’ve been in a hyperbaric chamber, because essentially once they close the door, they put the cabin under pressure and pump oxygen in there,” she said. “It’s kind of like that, but we are using a higher concentration of oxygen.”

The MGH staff has already completed their hyperbaric medicine course to receive certification, and there will be a doctor, nurse and technician in the office during business hours.

Smith said the new machines will not replace the other treatments they already provide inside the wound center.

“We’ve been doing wound care here for a very, very long time, and it’s kind of a hidden gem … Hyperbarics is like the cherry on top of the sundae,” she said.