Washington University Physicians

Dr. John Kirby and a technician oversee a patient undergoing hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Photo by Mark Gilliland Photography

Washington University Surgical and Wound Care Clinic at Barnes-Jewish Hospital is helping patients heal chronic wounds. The advanced care clinic, located in the hospital’s Center for Outpatient Health, offers a range of treatment options. This summer, those offerings expanded to include hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT). 

HBOT is a medical treatment in which a patient breathes 100-percent oxygen in a closed, pressurized chamber. For patients who have hard-to-heal wounds due to lack of oxygen in the surrounding tissue, HBOT allows faster, more complete healing, says Dr. John Kirby, Washington University medical director of the Surgical and Wound Care Clinic. The method stimulates small blood vessel growth, promotes new skin growth and helps fight infection.

The average HBOT treatment lasts about 90 minutes, with five to 30 total sessions, depending on the patient’s condition. “It feels almost like being up in an airplane, but really it’s like you’re going down in a submarine,” Kirby explains. “You recline in a chamber like a beach chair inside an atmosphere that is 100-percent oxygen, and we change the pressure around your body so that more of that oxygen is absorbed into your skin and blood vessels, all of which helps healing.” And patients have access to plenty of amenities to pass the time during treatments. “While you are in the chamber, you can watch TV or visit with family through the clear walls of the chamber. Each chamber is very personalized for each patient, and we schedule their appointments at convenient times for them.”

HBOT can benefit a range of patients, such as those with slow-healing wounds from diabetes, cancer patients who have undergone radiation therapy, and those with serious infections, as well as trauma and burn victims. Since the chamber opened this summer, Kirby says it has been amazing to see patients overcome general to serious conditions, from surgery wounds and diabetic foot wounds to traumatic skin conditions.

At the clinic, a dedicated team of physicians, including surgeons, radiologists, podiatrists, vascular surgeons, resident physicians and advance practice nurses, are part of the HBOT treatment process. The clinic also expedites treatment for patients, allowing those with general surgery issues to obtain outpatient care and avoid the emergency room. Kirby notes, “It’s really quite a special place.”

ON THE COVER: Washington University Surgical and Wound Care Clinic at Barnes-Jewish Hospital now offers hyperbaric oxygen therapy for advanced wound care and healing. Pictured: Dr. John Kirby and a technician prepare a patient for hyperbaric oxygen therapy. For more information, call 362-2233 or visit wuphysicians.wustl.edu.

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