Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy: "Where Have All the Chambers Gone?"

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Hyperbaric Chamber

by Thomas E. Serena MD, FACS, FACHM, FAPWCA

Pete Seeger died a year ago last January at the age of 94. Reading a tribute to the folk singer, I ran across his most memorable tune, "Where have all the flowers gone?" I have long enjoyed the numerous versions of this folk song recorded by dozens of artists. The fatalism of the lyrics and the circular verse form made it emblematic of a most unfortunate decade in American life: the 60s.

Hyperbaric Medicine: The State of the Evidence

And I wonder: What if hyperbaric medicine had a song! I see myself strumming my guitar and lamenting in days to come, "where have all the chambers gone?" Despite the rapid growth of wound and hyperbaric centers across the U.S., clinical research in the field has been sparse. The citations for many of our approved indications are decades old. There are few large cooperative group studies. At our wound care meetings the lecture titles read, "Hyperbaric Medicine: Hype or Evidence," or some such. If I have to listen to one more notional spate of academic bluster, I am certain that I will be overtaken by an uncontrollable and public emesis.

Just as important, the financial viability of our burgeoning specialty depends on revenue from HBO services. Even with frequent challenges to hyperbaric reimbursement, we have failed to rally our forces. The enemy is at the gate but to paraphrase Seeger, the soldiers have not gone off to war. It’s too late—we’ve no weapons!

In stark contrast, wound healing clinical trials abound. The primary reason stems from robust support from industry. As a result, we decry HBO clinical research for a lack of funding; therefore, we rely on ancient evidence. Clearly, this is not a viable long-term strategy to preserve our careers.

A Call to Action: Get Involved in Hyperbaric Medicine Trials

This first blog of 2015 is my rallying cry to the HBO community. Let's put aside competitive and academic differences and embark on clinical trials and registries in hyperbaric medicine this year. There will be little or no funding for these protocols, but we must generate data if we are going to advance the science and preserve our future. It is my fervent hope that we never reach the last line of Pete Seeger’s song, "Oh when will they ever learn."

For information on HBO cooperative trials getting underway in 2015 please feel free to contact me at serena@serenagroups.com.

About The Author
Dr. Thomas Serena has published more than 75 peer-reviewed papers and has made in excess of 200 presentations worldwide. He has been elected to the Board of Directors of both The Wound Healing Society and the American College of Hyperbaric Medicine (ACHM), the leading academic society in the field of Hyperbaric Medicine. In 2013 Dr. Serena was elected vice president of the American Professional Wound Care Association (APWCA). Dr. Serena has opened and operates Wound Care and hyperbaric oxygen treatment clinics across the United States.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author, and do not represent the views of WoundSource, Kestrel Health Information, Inc., its affiliates, or subsidiary companies.

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