25 Feb 2013

Hyperbaric chamber gives American Samoa potential to avoid amputations

11:28 am on 25 February 2013

The head of American Samoa's LBJ Hospital says its new hyperbaric oxygen chamber has the potential to avoid amputations after its first patient's successful treatment.

Mike Gerstenberger says the oxygen chamber was donated by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and it can be used to both treat divers for decompression illness and heal chronic infected wounds.

He says it's estimated as many as fifty per cent of American Samoa's population has diabetes.

He says obesity and the tropical environment can lead to extremity wounds that can easily become infected.

"The treatment of those infected wounds can be very very problematic. As a result we do a very large number of amputations every year here. And so our hope for the hyperbaric therapy centre is that we can greatly reduce the number of patients who end up facing amputation as a result of an infected diabetic wound."

Mike Gerstenberger says patients must meet strict clinical selection criteria for the treatment so only a few will benefit, but every limb saved is important.