By Joseph C. White, MD, FAAFP
A diabetic foot ulcer is an open sore or wound that commonly appears on the bottom of the foot and occurs among 15% of people with diabetes, according to the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA).
Diabetes is the leading cause of non-traumatic lower extremity amputations in the United States, and the APMA reports that approximately 14-24% of patients with diabetes who develop a foot ulcer will require an amputation.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) is an effective adjunctive therapy to traditional diabetic wound care. HBOT provides extra oxygen to help repair the non-healing wound. It does this by causing the formation of new blood vessels [angiogenesis] to replace those damaged by diabetes. By increasing blood flow, the wound is better supplied to promote healing.
Patients enter a hyperbaric chamber where the pressure is raised in order to allow more oxygen into the body. 100% oxygen at greater than atmospheric pressure is used inside the chamber. Each case is treated uniquely, but typically a patient with a diabetic wound will come five times a week for a four-week period with each session lasting two hours. During treatments, patients can comfortably relax, nap, or watch television.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, when used to treat chronic diabetic foot ulcers/wounds, has been shown to reduce the number of major leg/foot amputations. In a trial of 184 patients treated with combined HBOT and standard diabetic foot wound treatments, HBOT was found to reduce major amputation rates over standard wound care alone according to a study published by the journal of International Orthopaedics.
Joseph C. White, MD, FAAFP is the Director of Hyperbaric Medicine at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital.