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Hyperbaric Medicine

Hyperbaric treatment holds many benefits for patients suffering from a variety of wounds and conditions. Hyperbaric treatment is often used as a complementary form of care, assisting in the healing process by supplying large amounts of oxygen to the patient.

Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center's Hyperbaric Oxygen Unit is the region's only site for hyperbaric medicine services. The unit features a staff of Certified Hyperbaric Technologists fully trained in critical care.

Hyperbaric Medicine Topics

To learn more about this supportive treatment please choose from the following topics:


Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a medical treatment program in which the patient is enclosed in a pressurized chamber.

How it Works

Patients are treated with 100% oxygen at pressures greater than one atmosphere (ATM).

Pressure can be increased two to three times sea level atmospheric pressure in the HBO chamber. At these pressures, the level of oxygen in the blood can be increased to 1100 - 2000 mm Hg which will show the positive effects of hyperbaric oxygen treatment.

Benefits of Hyperbaric Medicine

Hyperbaric therapy is meant to supplement other forms of wound or condition treatment. The effects can help your body's healing processes or slow down negative processes. Here is a list of some medically accepted benefits of the treatment.

  • Improves oxygenation and reduces edema induced by oxygen starved tissues
  • Reduces and/or eliminates gas bubbles as seen in air/gas embolism and decompression sickness
  • Rapidly removes carbon monoxide from hemoglobin, intracellular enzymes and tissues
  • Helps stop brain lipid peroxidation as seen in carbon monoxide poisoning 
  • Inactivates toxins associated with clostridial gas gangrene 
  • Improves host defenses against severe bacterial infections by enhancing white blood cells
  • Enhances wound healing and limb salvage
  • Helps stimulate new capillary blood vessel growth in wounds 
  • Helps stimulate new bone cell growth in areas that have been damaged during radiation therapy 
  • Helps prevent or lessens tissue damage seen in thermal burns and traumatic tissue injuries


Our specially trained Hyperbaric Unit staff offers a number of services designed to supplement other treatments. Hyperbaric medicine is not meant to replace other wound or sickness treatments. Instead, this therapy acts to support other required treatments and involves a team approach allowing for the best patient care.

Patients are only seen for consultation if referred by their attending physician or surgeon. During the period of hyperbaric oxygen therapy, patients usually remain under the primary care of the attending physician or surgeon.

Transcutaneous Oxygen Monitoring

This is a non-invasive assessment of skin-surface oxygen levels. TCM measurements are used to provide an estimate of arterial PO2 levels at the site of a wound. These measurements help our physicians and hyperbaric staff determine if hyperbaric medicine would be beneficial as part of a patient's treatment.

TCM studies can be performed:

  • Before a patient's initial treatment
  • During a patient's initial treatment
  • After a series of treatments as a follow-up on wound response to therapy

TCM studies can also be used as an aid in tissue mapping for surgical limb intervention.

Consultation by our hyperbaric medicine staff is available and inquiries are always welcome. Consultation Requests for out-of-town patients are referred to appropriate Sioux Falls area specialists for primary care when deemed necessary by the patient's personal physician.

Treatment Indications

Hyperbaric treatment is still being researched to find new ways it can help sick or injured people. However, a large number of treatment indications are clinically accepted.

Clinically Accepted Treatment Indications

Hyperbaric treatment is currently clinically accepted for these medical conditions and situations.*

  • Air or gas embolism
  • Carbon Monoxide poisoning and Carbon Monoxide complicated by Cyanide poisoning
  • Clostridial Myositis and Myonecrosis (gas gangrene)
  • Crush injury, compartment syndrome and other acute traumatic ischemias
  • Decompression sickness
  • Enhancement of healing in selected problem (non-healing) wounds
  • Exceptional blood loss (anemia)
  • Intracranial abscess
  • Necrotizing soft tissue infections (subcutaneous tissue, muscle, fascia)
  • Osteomyelitis (refractory)
  • Delayed radiation tissue damage (soft tissue and bony necrosis)
  • Skin grafts and flaps (compromised)
  • Thermal burns

Other treatment uses are being researched and promise to reveal even more applications for hyperbaric therapy.

*Treatment indications taken from The Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy: 1999 Committee Report.


Patients can only be scheduled for hyperbaric oxygen treatment after an evaluation is conducted by the hyperbaric staff. Each treatment lasts approximately two hours.

Patients should arrive at the scheduled time and notify the staff of any changes in the treatment schedule since the therapeutic effects of hyperbaric oxygen are based on maintaining a specific treatment schedule. Long-term interruptions can cause the healing process to slow or even stop. 

Proper Treatment Preparation

Preparing for hyperbaric treatment is an important process. Make sure you discuss the following pre-treatment guidelines with the staff.


Some medications are not compatible with hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Your current medications will be reviewed and discussed prior to the first treatment.


Inform the hyperbaric therapist if you have symptoms of a cold or influenza, such as fever, sore throat, runny nose, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or general aching. The therapist may then temporarily postpone treatment.


You must refrain from smoking and other tobacco products. If at all possible, you should also avoid passive smoke.


A 100% cotton gown will be supplied to wear during treatment. All other clothing and items such as watches, jewelry, dentures, hearing aids, wigs/hairpieces and prosthetic devices must be removed prior to treatment.

Items to Avoid Prior to and During Treatment

  • Lipstick/lip ointment
  • Makeup
  • Hair spray
  • Petroleum/Vaseline products
  • Deodorant
  • Perfumes/colognes
  • Mousse/gel
  • Body Lotions
  • Nail Polish

Family Orientation

Family members are encouraged to tour the facilities and participate in the patient's orientation.

For more information contact the Avera McKennan Hyperbaric Oxygen Unit at 605-322-8610 or call the Emergency Hyperbaric Consult line at 800-367-3278.