Wound Care Center Opens


Contact: Tammy G. Love

VP of Business Development

Phone: (336) 651-8116

Wilkes Journal-Patriot Staff

Wilkes Regional Medical Center’s Wound Healing Center is now open in the Diagnostic Center/After Hours Clinic at West Park.

The focus of the center is on the treatment of chronic wounds, or wounds that will not heal with conventional treatment.

Susan McUmber, the center director, said that there are usually underlying reasons that prevent a wound from healing. In many cases, that cause is diabetes as diabetics are told to check their feet and legs daily for wounds that are not healing.

The staff at the wound center offers conventional treatment of wounds, changing dressings on a regular basis. That treatment begins with an extended visit in which staff members examine, measure and photograph the wound and develop a treatment plan. The wound is thoroughly cleaned of dead and unhealthy tissue to promote healing. The staff has the option of using specialized wound dressing and compression wraps.

Hyperbaric treatment

Most importantly, the center offers another proven method for treating chronic wounds with two hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) therapy chambers.

The circular, horizontal air-tight chamber in which the patient is placed is filled with pure oxygen. The patients remain in the chamber for two hours.

The treatment provides an increased level of oxygen in the bloodstream and allows more oxygen to reach the wound, promoting healing from the inside out. The treatment fights infection, promoting healthy tissue.

Only 10-20 percent of the patients being treated at the wound center are eligible for the HBO treatments. The patients take treatments for 10-14 weeks, and the treatment has been shown to have a 90 percent rate of healing.

The staff can also treat some internal injuries with HBO. In some cases, radiation treatments for prostate cancer can cause damage to nearby organs and tissue. The oxygen can promote healing of those wounds.

The center here is operated by Healogics, under a partnership  agreement with Wilkes Regional. Healogics owns the largest number of wound care centers in the United States. Negotiations on the agreement began in late summer and continued through the fall.

The center opened in mid-December, and the hyperbaric chambers were installed and ready for patient treatment in mid-February,

Patients may be referred to the center for care by their family physician or specialist, but a referral is not required. The treatment is available for all ages, but most are senior citizens with Medicare coverage.

Dr. Brad Huggins of Wilkes Regional Surgical Specialists is the medical director for the center. The panel of rotating specialists who have been trained on HBO care are Dr. Alan Keyes, Dr. Craig Bennett and Dr. Thomas McMahan. These physicians have had specialized training for the chamber and will take ongoing training.

Chris Jordan is the safety director for the center; Rebecca Church is the clinical coordinator; and Angela Parsons is the case manager.

The hyperbaric chamber can also be used to treat the “bends” of decompression illness suffered by divers who have been at extreme depths and then come back to the surface too quickly. That was actually one of the first uses for the chamber.

Jordan, a trained SCUBA diver, explained that nitrogen bubbles in the bloodstream contract to half their size with every 33 feet of depth.

“When you are returning to the surface, you need to stop along the way to let those bubbles dissolve,” he said. “If you don’t, the bubbles will expand too rapidly and can block a vein.”

The center can treat 12 patients a day in the two hyperbaric chambers. They remain in the chambers for two hours each session. There is a wide-screen television monitor mounted above each clear chamber, and patients can watch television or a DVD. The center has a small library of movies, or patients can bring their own. They are provided with earphones for audio.

Because of the atmosphere of pure oxygen, patients cannot wear street clothing or any jewelry that could cause a spark from static electricity. Smokers cannot smoke for an hour prior to treatment, as there may be residual heat or ash inside their lungs.

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