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Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center Installs the Country's Second-Largest Hyperbaric Chamber
Date:4/17/2008

Hospital will significantly expand its services, treating up to 24 patients

at a time

MILWAUKEE, April 17 /PRNewswire/ -- Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center's new hyperbaric chamber will triple the hospital's capacity to treat patients with hyperbaric oxygen therapy and improve its regional wound care services.

(Photo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20080417/AQTH107)

The 52-foot-long, 66-ton chamber, the second-largest in the U.S. and the largest in Wisconsin, will be able to treat up to 24 patients at one time.

The chamber was installed today after being lifted by a huge crane and placed into the basement of Aurora St. Luke's through a 1,100-square-foot hole.

Hyperbaric chambers are primarily used to help treat difficult wounds, such as diabetic foot ulcers, but also are used for carbon monoxide poisoning and a host of other medical conditions. During hyperbaric treatment, patients breathe 100 percent oxygen in a pressurized chamber. The increased oxygen in the blood stimulates small blood vessel and skin growth and helps fight infection.

"This new chamber will allow us to continue to provide our patients with the most advanced, state-of-the-art technologies available in wound care," said Jeffrey A. Niezgoda, M.D., medical director of Aurora's Centers for Comprehensive Wound Care and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Program. "Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center has always been a pioneer in the field of hyperbaric medicine. This new chamber will allow us to continue to attract patients from throughout the Midwest."

Hyperbaric treatment can literally save the lives and limbs of patients with wounds that are difficult to treat because of chronic medical conditions such as diabetes and arterial vascular disease, Dr. Niezgoda said.

Jack Simanonok, M.D., another hyperbaric physician in the Aurora program, said there is a growing need for hyperbaric therapy.

"The role of hyperbaric medicine is becoming increasingly important as the incidence of diabetes increases, the population ages and the number of chronic wounds exceeds 6 million yearly," Dr. Simanonok said. "There are currently 24 million diabetics in the U.S., approximately 8 percent of the population, and these patients are at significant risk for complications related to diabetic foot disease. Obesity and tobacco use also impact the body's ability to heal and may contribute to the development of chronic wounds."

Monica Skarban, regional manager of wound care and hyperbaric medicine for Aurora Health Care, said: "Our program provides patients with a full range of wound care services, and we collaborate with experts throughout Aurora Health Care to provide the best, most complete care for our patients. We have access to multidisciplinary groups such as the Aurora Visiting Nurse Association, vascular services, physical therapists, the lymphodema clinic, nutritional medicine and pain management."

Mary O'Brien, chief administrative officer at Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center, said that great care was taken in the design of the new hyperbaric chamber to ensure a comfortable environment for patients. The chamber features natural lighting, relaxing colors, climate control, entertainment systems and even a restroom.

"The patient is at the center of everything we do at Aurora, so in designing the new chamber we sought input from patients," she explained. "Having access to this kind of technology is a very significant development for our patients."

The chamber was built in Queensland, Australia. It left Brisbane, Australia, on a ship on Feb. 22, arriving in Long Beach, Calif., on April 4. It then was loaded onto a trailer and trucked cross-country to Milwaukee.

The new chamber is expected to be fully operational in August. Until then, Aurora. St. Luke's patients will continue to use the twin chambers that were installed in 1965 and nicknamed Bonnie and Clyde. The Bonnie chamber can accommodate up to six patients, while the Clyde chamber can treat two patients at a time. After the new chamber is put into use, the old chambers will continue to be used for research.

Aurora is the only Wisconsin health system accredited by the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society. It is one of only 88 accredited nationwide, and was given accreditation "with distinction," which places it in the top 10 percent of accredited hyperbaric facilities in the United States.

Aurora Health Care provides about 6,500 hyperbaric treatments a year and is the largest provider of hyperbaric care in Wisconsin. Aurora also offers hyperbaric care in West Allis, Hartford, Oshkosh and Green Bay.

Aurora Health Care is a not-for-profit Wisconsin health care provider and a national leader in efforts to improve the quality of health care. Aurora offers care at sites in more than 90 communities throughout eastern Wisconsin.

AURORA HEALTH CARE:

A LEADER IN HYPERBARIC MEDICINE

-- Aurora Health Care delivers more hyperbaric oxygen therapy than any

other health care provider in Wisconsin, providing 6,500 treatments to

patients each year.

-- Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center is the only Wisconsin hospital with a

hyperbaric chamber of the size and scope of the one now being

installed. The second-largest in the nation, the new chamber can

accommodate up to 24 patients at one time.

-- Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center has the only Level I wound care

center in Wisconsin, staffed by board-certified hyperbaric and wound

care physicians. Only 200 such centers exist in the U.S.

-- Aurora is the only Wisconsin health system accredited by the Undersea

and Hyperbaric Medical Society. It is one of only 88 accredited

nationwide, which places it in the top 10% of hyperbaric facilities in

the United States.

-- The two current hyperbaric chambers at Aurora St. Luke's, nicknamed

Bonnie and Clyde, will be kept for research. Bonnie can accommodate

six patients and an attendant, Clyde two patients and an attendant.

-- In addition to the services available to patients at Aurora St.

Luke's, Aurora Health Care offers hyperbaric and wound care close to

home in these communities:

-- West Allis

-- Green Bay

-- Oshkosh

-- Hartford

ABOUT AURORA ST. LUKE'S NEW HYPERBARIC CHAMBER

-- Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center's new rectangular hyperbaric chamber

is one of the two largest hyperbaric chambers in the United States at

52 feet long and 66 tons. It is just 3 inches shorter than the largest

chamber, in use at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

-- The new chamber has two large main treatment areas, each 10 feet by 20

feet. It can accommodate up to 24 seated patients, or a mix of

patients in wheelchairs and beds. The new chamber will allow Aurora

St. Luke's to provide hyperbaric oxygen therapy to three times as many

patients as it can now with its existing two chambers.

-- Each hyperbaric treatment lasts two hours, so it's important that the

chamber be comfortable for patients. The new chamber was designed

with input from patients and includes natural lighting, relaxing

colors, climate control, entertainment systems and a restroom.

-- The $2 million hyperbaric chamber was custom-built by Fink Engineering

in Queensland, Australia. Fink representatives have worked closely

with Aurora St. Luke's personnel and will be in Milwaukee as the

chamber is placed into the hospital and prepared for service.

-- The chamber has had a long journey. It left Brisbane, Australia, on a

ship on Feb. 22, arriving in Long Beach, Calif., on April 4. It then

was loaded onto a trailer and trucked cross-country to Milwaukee.

FACTS ABOUT HYPERBARIC MEDICINE

-- Hyperbaric treatment can literally save the lives and limbs of

patients with wounds that are difficult to heal because of chronic

medical conditions such as diabetes and poor circulation. It is also

used to treat other difficult to heal wounds such as necrotizing

infections (flesh-eating bacteria), radiation tissue damage, burns,

carbon monoxide poisoning, smoke inhalation and scuba diving injuries.

-- Hyperbaric oxygen therapy increases the amount of oxygen in the blood,

delivering more oxygen to injured tissue. Increased oxygen stimulates

small blood vessel and skin growth and helps fight infection.

-- Patients receiving hyperbaric treatment breathe 100 percent oxygen in

a pressurized chamber. Air consists of about 21 percent oxygen and 78

percent nitrogen. In the pressurized atmosphere, patients receive

about 15 times the oxygen they would normally breathe in unpressurized

air.

-- Receiving hyperbaric therapy in a pressurized chamber is comparable to

being in an airplane. Patients may feel their ears "pop" as they

adjust to the pressure.

-- Each treatment lasts two hours. Patients may receive from 15 to 30

treatments, depending on their condition.

-- The National Fire Protection Association has strict rules about what

patients can wear or take inside the enclosed, oxygen-rich space.

Electronic devices such as cell phones and iPods are not allowed.

-- Hyperbaric chambers originally had rounded corners because rectangular

corners could not be reinforced enough to handle the pressurized

atmosphere. The development of stronger metals now allows for

rectangular designs.


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SOURCE Aurora Health Care
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