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Wound Care Center helps patients heal
ARLINGTON — The Cascade Valley Hospital’s Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine Center considers itself one of the best-kept secrets in Arlington, but it’s eager to lose that status.
“We’ve been here 15 years this March,” said Michael Handley, program director for the Wound Care Center. “Our clinic manager and medical director have been residents of Arlington since day one. This sleepy little town has a program that’s won national awards and been named a top wound care center.”
With only about a dozen staff members, the Wound Care Center has received seven such awards, including the Robert E. Warriner M.D. Center of Excellence Award in 2009, which Handley touted as evidence of its successful approach.
“Back in 1998, Cascade Valley took a risk on the sort of program that historically lost hospitals lots of money,” Handley said. “They saw a local need that wasn’t being addressed.”
Since then, Handley estimated that the Wound Care Center has treated between 4,000-5,000 wounds per year for the past several years, for a total of approximately 52,000 wounds since the clinic opened. Handley identified diabetes as the leading cause of the wounds treated at the Care Center, and while older patients who suffer from diminished blood flow to their extremities are among the Center’s more frequent patients, Handley expressed concern about the increasingly high incidence of diabetes in younger people as well.
“Hundreds of thousands of Snohomish County residents have diabetes,” Handley said. “It affects the blood flow, which affects the body’s healing, because oxygen and other nutrients aren’t circulating properly. We get patients who have suffered wounds for years, but we’re able to speed up their healing to a matter of months and days.”
The Cascade Valley Hospital Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine Center is able to treat such chronic, otherwise non-healing wounds through its hyperbaric oxygen treatments.
“It’s the only therapy shown to actually regrow blood vessels,” Handley said. “It requires a commitment from the patients, though.”
Nancy Roach, a medical assistant who serves as the Center’s safety director and hyperbaric technician, elaborated that patients must be ready to receive between 30-40 such treatments on an outpatient basis, with each treatment lasting two hours. Patients recline in an enclosed hyperbaric chamber, in which air pressure is increased and they breathe 100 percent oxygen, to dissolve the oxygen in their bodies’ cells, tissues and fluids at up to 10 times the normal concentration.
“We time out the treatments exactly and stay right by the patients’ side,” Roach said. “They can even listen to music, watch TV or bring their own DVDs and get comfortable.”
In addition to diabetic leg and foot wounds, the Center’s hyperbaric oxygen treatments are used to help remedy chronic bone infections, failed skin grafts or flaps, radiation tissue injuries, necrotizing infections, gas gangrene, carbon monoxide poisoning, crush injuries and other slow or non-healing wounds.
“We’ve seen a number of patients after they’ve received radiation treatments for cancer,” said Teri Burt, the Center’s clinical coordinator, who noted that the hyperbaric chamber is a relatively recent innovation at the Wound Care Center, having arrived at Cascade Valley only a couple of years ago. “We’ve even kept terminal patients comfortable through the ends of their lives. It’s not for everybody, though. Some patients prefer more conservative care. With some of them, such as heavy smokers, it’s because they’re not ready to make certain changes in their lives.”
At the same time, Burt recalled Wound Care Center patients who have been able to retain and heal limbs that other doctors had recommended should simply be amputated.
“We welcome self-referrals, but we also encourage our patients to coordinate their care with their primary care providers,” Handley said.
The Cascade Valley Hospital Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine Center is located in Suite 210 at 875 Wesley St. in Arlington, and is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays, as well as 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Fridays.
For more information, log onto www.cascadevalley.org/hospital/woundcare.php or call 360-403-8158.