A hyperbaric oxygen therapy service, the only such private facility in the Western Cape, was recently opened at the Tokai Medicross and is available to treat a range of medical conditions, the Medicross group announced today.
Dr Jonathan Rosenthal, a medical practitioner who specialises in hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) and heads up the new facility at Tokai Medicross, says that while hyperbaric chamber treatments are commonly known as being used for the emergency treatment of decompression sickness (the bends), a potential danger of scuba diving, it has a greater and well-established role in the therapy of a number of other conditions where reduced tissue oxygenation is the underlying pathology.
“While the centre is certainly available to treat divers who suffer the misfortune of decompression sickness, the great majority of our work involves the treatment of other medical conditions such as serious infections and wounds resulting from diabetes or radiation injury,” adds Dr Rosenthal, who holds post-graduate qualifications in diving and underwater medicine.
Dr Rosenthal explains that HBOT involves the patient breathing 100% pure oxygen in a chamber where the atmospheric pressure can be increased under regulated conditions. This enables blood oxygen levels to be temporarily raised to massively increased levels to support healing of problems underpinned by low tissue oxygenation, thereby promoting healing and assisting in combatting infection.
“Oxygen is normally transported throughout the body by red blood cells only. With HBOT, we can dissolve oxygen directly into the blood plasma thereby enabling the oxygen to reach areas where circulation is diminished or blocked as a result of injury or disease,” he points out.
“This increase in the oxygen levels in the blood speeds up cell repair, assists the body to fight off certain bacterial infections, reduces swelling and stimulates new blood vessels to develop in areas where tissue is damaged.”
“In diabetes, by way of example, blood circulation to the extremities of the body can become a problem, and in serious cases, this can result in the development of gangrene in the limbs, which can be life-threatening. HBOT can be used in appropriate cases to improve oxygen flow to the limbs, accelerate wound healing and reduce the risk of gangrene.
“However, almost more important than the temporary super-normal oxygenation is the fact that HBOT causes the small blood vessels to regenerate permanently within damaged areas facilitating lasting improvements. This is particularly important in cases where diabetes and radiation therapy, which is used as a cancer treatment, has damaged the small blood vessels or microvasculature.”
The HBOT centre uses a Hyox monoplace chamber, which is pressurised with medical grade oxygen administered via a face mask typically for about 90 minutes per treatment. Located at Tokai Medicross, the HBOT centre enables easy access to all of the facilities and services on offer at the facility including access to the onsite X-ray department. Treatments are undertaken from Monday to Friday between 8 am and 5 pm.
The therapy takes approximately two hours and is typically carried out over several days depending on the condition being treated, says Dr Rosenthal. Transcutaneous oxygen measurement, a non-invasive method of measuring the level of oxygen present in the tissues below the skin, is also undertaken at the centre and is useful in evaluating patient suitability.
The hyperbaric team consists of unit head Dr Rosenthal, hyperbaric physician Dr Zaahier Kamedien, and highly experienced nursing sister, Nikki Brandt, who assists with the daily management of the unit. “The team is passionate about hyperbaric medicine and in addition to HBOT expertise, have a wealth of experience ranging from internal, casualty and ICU medicine to diving and submarine medicine,” notes Dr Rosenthal.
“Hyperbaric oxygen treatment has been proven in controlled trials to be beneficial in a large range of different medical conditions and it is most gratifying that we are now able to offer these to the members of the community at our new centre. In addition, this field of medicine is fundamentally changing the approach and management of certain medical conditions and presents exciting prospects for the future.”
Dr Rosenthal says that all therapies provided at Tokai Medicross hyperbaric oxygen treatment centre are undertaken in accordance with international guidelines for evidence-based HBOT treatment. The centre provides treatment for the following conditions:
- Air or gas bubbles (embolism) in the blood
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Non-healing wounds such as a diabetic foot ulcer
- Gas gangrene (clostridial myositis and myonecrosis)
- Crush injury, compartment syndrome and other acute traumatic ischemias
- Decompression sickness
- Arterial insufficiencies
- Severe anaemia
- Intracranial abscess
- Necrotising soft tissue infections
- Refractory osteomyelitis (a bone infection that has not responded to previous treatment)
- Delayed radiation injury (soft tissue and bone necrosis)
- Compromised grafts and flaps
- Acute thermal burn injury
- Sudden deafness (idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss)
Issued by: MNA on behalf of Medicross Tokai
Contact: Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Meggan Saville and Pieter Rossouw
Telephone: (011) 469 3016
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