New center for hyperbaric medicine and tissue repair opening in early May

The new Marshfield Clinic Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Tissue Repair will begin admitting patients in early May, providing specialty pressure- and oxygen-based treatments.

Marshfield Clinic began developing a hyperbaric medicine program about seven years ago as an add-on to other medical and wound care. The program is now the only service between Milwaukee and the Twin Cities that can provide this type of care.

The facility will house a hyperbaric chamber, which can treat up to 10 patients at the same time. And the center will be able to treat about 36 patients per day, up from 10 per day with current facilities.

“Our new multi-place hyperbaric chamber expands our ability to treat more patients in a safer, more comfortable and more effective setting,” said Michael Caldwell, a surgeon and the center’s medical director.

Hyperbaric oxygen treatment involved breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized room or through a tube. Rather than breathing air with 21 percent oxygen, patients breathe 100 percent oxygen at higher atmospheric pressures.

Under these conditions, the human lung can absorb more oxygen than would be possible at normal atmospheric levels of oxygen and pressure. This higher oxygen level helps the body fight off bacteria, also stimulating the release of growth factors and stem cells which support the healing process.

This therapy increases the body’s ability to carry oxygen through the blood, and can be used to treat a variety of serious medical conditions including decompression sickness, also known as the bends. This occurs when someone ascends too rapidly from deep underwater, such as when scuba diving.

Other treatable conditions include: tenacious infections, bubbles of air in blood vessels, wounds that won’t heal because of diabetes or radiation injury, crushing injuries, burns, and others.

Some conditions like carbon monoxide poisoning can be fixed in as little as three visits. Others, like persistent wounds, can take as many as 40 treatments.

According to a fact sheet from Mayo Clinic, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is generally a safe procedure, but risks do exist. These rare complications include: temporary nearsightedness caused by temporary eye lens changes, middle ear injuries due to the high pressure, seizures related to an excess of oxygen and lung collapse.

Caldwell says this new Marshfield center is “the safest possible hyperbaric medicine environment.”

The three-story, 34,000 square foot center opens to patients May 7, and a dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony will be held May 4 at 11:30 a.m. Tours will be given until 5 p.m.

–By Alex Moe