Dakota Medical Foundation

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Dakota Medical Foundation

Press Release: Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Essentia Health becomes first hospital in region to offer hyperbaric oxygen therapy

When you think of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), you’re likely to associate it with scuba divers needing to decompress from deep-water dives. For so long, that was the primary treatment for HBOT. That’s no longer the case, however, as the therapy’s functionality has dramatically expanded so that it’s now used for myriad injuries, illnesses and conditions.

With the unveiling of two new hyperbaric chambers, Essentia Health-Fargo is thrilled to become the first hospital in our region offering this treatment. One of those chambers, funded in part by generous gifts from the Dakota Medical Foundation and Swanson Foundation, will dedicate at least 50% of its operational use to clinical research into the field of HBOT. Essentia is partnering with the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences to conduct the research.

“We are excited to pioneer hospital-based hyperbaric medical services in the area and provide this care in emergent, inpatient and ambulatory settings,” said Dr. Olayinka Ajayi, a physician at Essentia Health-Fargo who specializes in hyperbaric medicine.

What exactly is hyperbaric oxygen therapy? Essentially, it involves breathing pure oxygen under pressure. Inside a hyperbaric chamber, the air pressure is higher than normal, allowing your lungs to take in more oxygen than they would otherwise be able to. And when your blood carries this surplus of oxygen throughout the body, it helps fight bacteria, as well as stimulates growth factors and stem cells, which help you heal. Your body tissues need enough oxygen to function; when you’re injured, your body requires even more oxygen. And that’s where HBOT comes in and can make a pronounced and positive impact on a person’s recovery. Consistent treatments in a hyperbaric chamber increase the amount of oxygen your blood can carry.

“There is strong scientific and clinical evidence of HBOT’s effectiveness as either the primary treatment option for conditions such as carbon monoxide poisoning and air bubbles in the arteries, or an added option for other conditions such as tissue damage due to radiation, poor wound healing and ‘stroke’ to the retina (or back of the eye),” Dr. Ajayi said.

Currently, Essentia Health-Fargo uses HBOT to treat 14 conditions approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as well as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. These include facilitating healing in diabetic patients with foot wounds, thus preventing amputations; treating tissue damage resulting from radiation therapy; and reducing heart and/or brain damage in carbon monoxide poisoning.

Individual treatments — or dives into the chamber — typically last between 1-2 hours. The number of treatments depends on the nature of the condition being treated.

And while Essentia Health is thrilled to offer this treatment to our patients, we’re just as excited to partner with UND to advance research around the benefits of HBOT. And we’re thankful for the support of the Dakota Medical Foundation and Swanson Foundation, which are committed to advancing health care in our region.

“We are so grateful for these generous gifts to bring a new and vital service to our community,” said Susan Omdalen, executive director of the Essentia Health Foundation-West. “This new HBOT, and in particular Dr. Ajayi, make a huge impact on the care we provide our patients. We could not offer this expanded service without the support from our community partners.”



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