KOCHI: Hundreds of patients in the state suffer from the side effects of radiation therapy. This can be cured if ‘Hyperbaric oxygen therapy’ (HBOT) finds preeminence in the priority list of the medical fraternity. It could be used to treat 13 diseases, including burns, severe surgical infections caused by diabetes, diabetic foot ulcers, tissue damage following radiation treatment especially for oral and breast cancer.
Even after 25 years of its existence, majority of the medical fraternity in the state are clueless about it. Unfortunately, doctors refer it only when the patients ask for it after learning about it on the Net. Moreover, none of the medical colleges in the state are equipped with this therapy. Apart from Navy, only the Jubilee Mission Hospital, Thrissur, and the SP Fort Hospital, Thiruvantnathapuram, have the facility.
Dr Prashant Varkey, chairman, Education Committee, Asia Pacific Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society, explains that for a wound to heal, it needs more oxygen. “HBOT is breathing 100 per cent oxygen under increased atmospheric pressure. The pressure in the chamber where the patient is put will be two to three times more than the atmospheric pressure. Oxygen dissolves in the body tissues and reaches the areas where blood flow is interrupted thereby, quickening the healing process,” he said. He pointed out that each hospital comes across around 30 patients who are in need of this therapy. Though Navy has the facility, its services are mostly confined to the Navy personnel.
The facility to undertake the therapy is not clinical, said Dr Rohit Verma, Surgeon Commander, former in-charge of Marine Medicine, Naval Base, Kochi. “It is not backed by a set of doctors. Hence if something goes wrong the Naval Base does not have enough services to help patients,” he said.
Though the therapy is considered an adjunctive tool, it is relevant in a state like Kerala which is witnessing an unprecedented surge in cancer and diabetic patients, he said. The majority of the doctors are only aware of its use in deep sea diving related decompression sickness or in gas gangrene, said Dr Prashant. “This is because doctors do not have a chance to see results of patients treated through this modality,” he said. There are only three subject specialists in the state, points out Dr Ajith Kumar S, consultant, Hyperbaric Medicine and Wound Care, SP Fort Hospital. “The curriculum has not given any prominence to this particular stream. Though the Navy admits two civilian doctors to learn the course, they should now serve a bond of five years. Besides, there are no agencies to promote the therapy as it comes under Defence,” he said.