Let me paint a picture for you. A patient comes into a hospital based HBO unit with a re-attached finger (re-attachment was a week ago), the finger is black and the patient says hyperbaric oxygen therapy did not help the finger – in fact it made it worse and why am I here? I ask the patient, what kind of hyperbaric chamber did you go into? The response (although not shocking) was, a portable soft, blue and white chamber, we went to 1.3 atmospheres for many hours a day for a whole week and the finger is worse, it was pink after surgery and now its grayish black. There were a couple of responses that came to mind (all of them were negative), but instead of adding to a patient’s anxiety level, I decided to focus on what we can do now – I got the doctor to do the HBO consult, got all the paperwork done, and immediately treated the patient twice a day for two days, over the weekend, and by today (8 treatments in) the finger was completely black and the physician had to give the patient a realistic assessment that the index finger is no longer salvageable and may have to be amputated.
QUESTION 1: Do you think this patients finger could have been saved if the patient went to a hospital based or a free standing non-soft chamber facility and got the appropriate HBO treatment?
QUESTION 2: Do you think the soft-chamber facility is liable for this patient losing their finger because they “assumed” they can actually treat a post surgical reattachment of a finger at 1.3 ATA in a soft chamber and actually expect a good outcome?
QUESTION 3: Do you think this soft chamber facility will get shut down by the District Attorney and the Feds? I will answer that one for you – YES, and in fact the owners may face jail time & a lifetime of fines to boot.
So why do these places continue to parade around as if they can actually treat such indications? Don’t get me wrong, I am sure there are certain “none life & limb threatening” indications that these soft chambers are magically indicated for & there probably is a place for them…somewhere.
Do I sound bitter? Yes I am bitter! This is not the first time I have seen this happen and it will not be the last. This time it was different. This time it was a little girl who will grow up without a right index finger for the rest of her life because “someone” thought that their soft chamber could do exactly what a hard chamber can do. Was it for money? Was it to say that their chamber can treat basically every indication a hard chamber can treat? Or was it medical malpractice? I believe it was all of the above and that it was wrong.
The hyperbaric community needs to send a strong message to those soft chamber facilities in their communities that treating indications requiring at least 2 Atmospheres for 90 to 120 minutes on 100% oxygen inside of a soft chamber at 1.3 ATA on AIR IS WRONG! Otherwise more and more patients will fall victim to this type of tragedy. Here is a hint: Send these patients to an appropriate facility and save yourself a lawsuit!
The FDA is now aware of this situation and so is the local FBI office – so here is a WARNING to those with soft chambers that think they can get away with treating medicare approved indications in their chambers at 1.3 ATA, it is only a matter of time before you make this type of mistake and go down for it – do not risk short term income for a long term jail sentence, it isn’t worth the risk or the lawsuit!
Last QUESTION: How would you feel if this was your child?
Comments welcome & so is hate mail so bring it!