Have you ever wondered what the Cheyenne Regional Wound Care Clinic does? Yes, they care for wounds, but it isn’t as simple as putting antiseptic on a wound, dressing it and then sending patients on their way.
Many patients come to Wound Care because they have more intense wounds that won’t heal and require more specialized care, such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
“Patients will spend anywhere from 20 to 60 treatments with me,” Hyperbaric Tech Lindsey Olmstead said. “We take the patients to two atmospheres of pressure, which is the equivalent of being 33 feet underwater, and their oxygen is increased by 10 to 20 times. Normally, a patient’s oxygen is 90 to 100 percent, but when they’re in the chamber, they’re clearing 1,000 percent.”
Hyperbaric chambers are used to heal wounds because repairing body tissues requires a certain level of oxygen that patients are unable to obtain on their own.
“The oxygen saturates their cells and blood vessels, where it gets into their blood plasma. Once their plasma can’t hold any more oxygen, it will dissolve deep into the tissues and heal from the inside out,” Olmstead said.
However, too much oxygen can have the opposite effect. Wounds that are particularly deep, such as radiation damage from chemotherapy treatments, require the patient to be placed at 45 feet underwater. Being at that level requires air breaks every 30 minutes to avoid oxygen toxicity and decompression sickness.
While the hyperbaric chamber is effective, it isn’t used for just any wound.
“By the time patients come to me, we have usually tried everything else. Patients need to have failed 4 to 6 weeks of antibiotics before we put them in the hyperbaric chamber,” Olmstead said. “It’s exciting when patients come to me because I really like being part of their healing process and it’s great to see them ring the ‘Healed’ bell when they’re done.”
Cheyenne Regional Wound Care is one of only two official wound clinics in Wyoming – the other being in Casper.
“I’m very proud of my staff,” Wound Care Clinic Medical Director Dr. Karen Leung said. “They’re a very skilled bunch. For a while, Lindsey [Olmstead] was the only certified tech in the state of Wyoming. There are more hyperbaric clinics now, so we have more techs in the state, but she was the only one for a long time, and that was very exciting.”
While hyperbaric treatment is effective, it is used as a last resort. The Wound Care Clinic can do anything from simply replacing a bandage to providing aloe skin grafts – manmade skin grafts that have very early cells that eventually become skin cells.
“We heal the wounds that are resistant to healing, and we’re very good at it. We have a lot of happy patients, and they’re always so grateful,” Dr. Leung said.
While the majority of the treatments are outpatient, Wound Care does take care of inpatients, as well, including at the Davis Hospice Center, Transitional Care Unit, Acute Rehabilitation Unit and all areas of the hospital.
Dr. Leung reiterates how rewarding it is to work in Wound Care.
“We’re able to meet the needs of our community, and it’s so gratifying to see patients get better each week.”