Skin Health

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy: Newer Frostbite Treatment

If you’ve been diagnosed with frostbite during Cincinnati’s bitter cold winter, you may want to consider a new treatment option for repairing your skin: hyperbaric oxygen chamber therapy. 

Christopher Hatfield, of West Chester, was outside in sub-freezing temperatures for several hours when his feet went numb, due to frostbite. “I didn’t feel it happening. You think you’d feel something like that happen. I had no idea,” he tells Local 12’s Liz Bonis.

Once the numbness wore off, however, he was in terrible pain, and the skin on and around his toes turned black and started peeling, so he sought treatment immediately, and was prescribed hyperbaric oxygen chamber therapy.

Frostbite: What’s the Cause?

Christopher’s feet were damaged because of lack of blood flow. “Without blood flow, nothing will heal and the whole premise of frostbite is that we’re really not getting enough oxygen down to our extremities, and that’s, primarily, the main problem that’s causing these irreversible changes to our toes, to our hands, [and] to our ears or nose,” podiatrist Haim Cohen MD explains. 

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy: How Does it Work?

After about 12 treatments in the hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber at the Bethesda North Advanced Wound Healing Center, the state of Christopher’s feet improved significantly.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy allows a patient to breathe 100 percent oxygen, at two to three times greater than normal atmospheric pressure. “We are saturating the blood vessels in the patient’s body – that, in the early stages, will recruit dormant blood vessels, and in the long-term, stimulate angiogenesis, which is the formation of new blood vessels,” Dr. Cohen explains.

While new blood vessels have helped heal Christopher’s feet, he will practice extra precaution when working outdoors. “I thought I was indestructible when it comes to that kind of stuff, but, it can happen,” he says.

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