IDAHO FALLS, Idaho - Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a well-known treatment for decompression sickness for divers, but in eastern Idaho, treatment for other conditions is growing rapidly.
Mountain View Hospital and Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center house hyperbaric chambers.
Patients enjoy a movie while undergoing a treatment using pressurized oxygen.
At Mountain View Hospital, three monoplace hyperbaric chambers are used for treatment for a number of conditions. The most common include diabetic ulcers, burns, carbon monoxide poisoning, wounds that don't heal, crush injuries and gangrene.
"You can bypass all of those problems by driving oxygen down the tissues that need to heal," said Dr. Gregory West.
Hyperbaric Safety Officer Jerry VanLeuven said the oxygen pressure is about 33 feet below sea level.
"There's constantly air flowing through. You get a little breeze. It's comfortable," said West.
Since hyperbaric oxygen therapy was developed for divers, "We talk about patients having a dive instead of a treatment," said West.
A dive typically lasts two hours. Patients receive the treatment five times a week.
VanLeuven said patients said the air seems a bit thick.
"It feels a little more than what you sense when you're landing in a passenger airplane," said West.
A technician watches over patients to maintain oxygen levels.
"Generally you see healing in 20 treatments," said West.
"If we heal that wound with standard wound care procedures, in three to five months they'll be back to be retreated. If we treat with hyperbarics it will be three to five years," said VanLeuven.
Researchers are looking into using hyperbaric oxygen therapy to treat allergies, autism, cancer and stroke.
However, according to the Mayo Clinic, there's insufficient scientific evidence to support claims that hyperbaric oxygen therapy can effectively treat those conditions.