The Sentara Comprehensive Wound Care Center treats the whole person with a hyperbaric chamber and an array of services.

Healing the body

Several times a week, prostate cancer survivor Joseph Thomas, Jr. lies in a pressurized hyperbaric chamber at Sentara Port Warwick, breathing pure oxygen.

Thomas, a 45-year-old Williamsburg resident who survived prostate cancer, developed blood in his stool from therapy. The hyperbaric oxygen chamber helps patients like Thomas, who are having trouble with wound healing.

"We kind of have a one-stop shop here," said Dr. Jason Garrison, medical director of the wound care center.

There's a growing need for wound-care treatment as the population ages and people get cancer and diabetes, he said.

About 45 percent of the patients treated in the hyperbaric chambers are diabetics with slow-healing wounds. Diabetics and people with arterial disease, such as smokers, may have poor circulation.

"If you don't have blood flow, you're won't have healing," Garrison said.

Another 45 percent have wounds due to radiation and cancer. The rest have surgical and other wounds. 

Addressing every need 

At the center, medical professionals look at the total patient picture: Are their diseases being managed properly? Does a nutritionist need to suggest dietary changes? There's access to vascular and general surgeons, podiatry, endocrine services and possibly home care if patients need help changing dressings.

The clinic was the first in the state to offer an ultrasound device to aid healing. The Qoustic Wound Therapy System uses ultrasonic energy to remove unwanted tissue, stimulate circulation and disrupt bacteria growth.

The pressurized hyperbaric chambers deliver pure oxygen at two to three times the amount that's delivered by face masks. That can increase oxygen delivery to the injured tissue and assist in blood vessel formation.

 "It's a great service because it doesn't require any surgery. It's noninvasive," said Thomas. "There's no stress. I think it's a good treatment, for that reason."



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