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Health Team

Rex Heals Wounds With Pressurized Oxygen

Posted February 1, 2007 5:14 p.m. EST
Updated February 1, 2007 9:06 p.m. EST

— To help patients with hard-to-heal injuries, Rex Hospital recently opened Wake County's first hyperbaric chambers.

Part of the new Rex Wound Healing Center, the hyperbaric chambers place a patient in a pressurized setting -- the pressure is equal to being at about 33 feet below sea level -- and deliver 100 percent oxygen to him or her.

"They call it a 'dive' because it's the same physiology of a diver actually going down underwater," said Dr. Jim Fogartie, a vascular surgeon at Rex.

Buddy Cagle comes sits in the hyperbaric chamber two hours a day, five days a week to help with his diabetes.

He's allowed to take only all-cotton blankets and a robe inside to prevent any spark, even static electricity, from starting a fire , and the technicians slowly decrease the pressure.

"It's like going and taking a nap," Cagle said of his treatments.

He has poor circulation in his feet, and cuts and bruises are slow to heal and sometimes become infected.

"I've had to lose the big toe on one foot and a small toe on the other foot," he said.

Cagle takes medication and has undergone bypass surgery to restore blood flow to the legs. But Fogartie said hyperbaric treatment will help with slow-healing wounds.

"By delivering 15 to 20 percent more oxygen to that tissue, we can see a rapid improvement and a rapid wound healing process," Fogartie said.

Cagle said he might have saved his toes if he'd had hyperbaric treatment sooner. A few weeks of treatment already seems to be making a difference, his wife said.

"It's been proven that it will heal those wounds, and so we're very optimistic about it and the way it's going right now," Nancy Cagle said.