A Look Inside Spectrum’s Hyperbaric Oxygen Chambers

Posted at 7:57 PM, Mar 20, 2013
and last updated 2013-03-20 19:57:48-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.–A family of seven from Lansing was transported to Spectrum Hospital in Grand Rapids on Wednesday after suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning in their home.

The family was originally taken to Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, but had to be taken to Spectrum for a special oxygen treatment. They’re expected to recover.

Spectrum Butterworth has three of the hyperbaric chambers and is one of only two hospitals in the state that treats critical or emergency patients with the therapy.

The chambers look like a glass tube and have the appearance of a tanning bed.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy works by delivering pressurized oxygen to the body in order to treat a variety of conditions, including carbon monoxide poisoning.

“Carbon monoxide hangs onto the body like glue, it acts as a poison to the cells” explains Richard Hodgson, M.D., Director of Hyperbaric Medicine at Spectrum.

“When that happens the brain and heart,  the two most sensitive organs, can be damaged, so by providing high pressure oxygen we can remove that carbon monoxide from the system in a very rapid fashion and prevent damage that may occur,” he said.

Dr. Hodgson says the oxygen is an antidote to the poison.

Spectrum sees about 40 to 50 CO cases during the winter months. Because they are one of the few facilities offering the treatment, they treat patients from across the state and from Canada.

During the process, a patient is examined for any fire hazards and then placed into the tube where the door is shut.  For patients who are claustrophobic, a relaxer can be prescribed beforehand.

The treatments, on average, last around 90 minutes and cost around $600 each.

The number of sessions varies and can be determined by the patient, the level of exposure, and the timing of treatment.

“We follow a protocol, I’ve seen people walking and acting normal at a 35 (exposure) and then with levels of 10 and 15 who are unconscious, so levels don’t tell the whole story, ” said Dr. Hodgson.

He says the results of the oxygen therapy can be life saving.

“We’ve had cases all over, everything from someone who’s been in a coma for 6 or 7 days who woke up and went home,” said Hodgson.

“I think it is a great benefit for the state to have this here,” he said.

The oxygen therapy is also used to treat a number of other problems, including diabetic wounds, radiation injury, scuba diving decompression illness, and thermal burns.

Spectrum has its three existing chambers for three years.  They see about 8 to 12 patients a day for treatments.