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Oxygen Treatment Helps Dissolve Chronic Wounds

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The use of oxygen as medicine is growing in popularity and the newest center to open in the city is already improving patients' lives. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.

Pelvic radiation therapy used to treat Frances Flores' cervical cancer caused daily internal bleeding.

"Like almost all day, every night," recalls Flores.

It left the 80-year-old in pain, self-conscious, tired, and house-ridden. Her medication failed to stop the bleeding.

"I was afraid to have like a little accident with the bleeding," she says.

Flores was referred to NYU Langone's new Hyperbaric and Advanced Wound Healing Center, the latest of several similar facilities in New York. They treat chronic, non-healing wounds with 100 percent oxygen which dissolves into the blood stream having a so-called "drug effect."

"It increases what's called angiogenesis which is a new development of capillary blood vessels into the area. It, so to speak, draws in the other cellular elements which can increase wound healing," says Dr. Frank Ross of the NYU Langone Hyperbaric & Advanced Wound Healing Center.

Normal air is usually at one atmosphere or at sea level. While inside the hyperbaric chambers patients experience what feels like two atmospheres or 33 feet below sea level. They stay inside the chamber for 90 minutes each session.

With a history of bad press, hyperbaric oxygen treatment is still met with some skepticism.

"Back in the 20s, 30s, 40s hyperbaric oxygen was used without any studies and there were a lot of claims made that were not true. There's very selective indications for what it's used for," says Ross.

Recent studies have shown proven results in patients like Flores, or those with carbon monoxide poisoning, burn victims and even in saving the blood-starved limbs of diabetics.

But Ross says more scientific studies are needed and NYU is starting a new one soon.

"Looking at possibly stroke and or use with concussion," Ross notes.

So far, Flores has had 20 sessions. The oxygen is reducing the swelling of inflamed blood vessels around her pelvis, and helping to create new ones.

"The blood is almost gone," says Flores.

Meantime, Flores is already back to taking walks in the park, and exercising regularly.

"I'm happy, I hope it keeps working," she says.

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