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Home : News : News
NEWS | June 21, 2017

Undersea Hyperbaric Medicine Clinic opens at Brooke Army Medical Center

By Lori Newman Brooke Army Medical Center Public Affairs

A June 16 ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the official opening of the Undersea & Hyperbaric Medicine Clinic at Brooke Army Medical Center. The clinic, previously located at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, uses oxygen therapy to treat a wide range of illnesses and injuries.

Army and Air Force leaders gathered to celebrate the joint effort that led to the clinic’s opening at BAMC.

“I believe through these collaborative efforts we continue to improve the care we provide our military beneficiaries and our civilian trauma patients,” said BAMC Commander Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Johnson at the morning ceremony. “Together we are able to provide a more robust health benefit, which has depth and experience neither of our individual services could provide on their own.”

“The joint efforts and hard work of both Brooke Army Medical Center and the 59th Medical Wing over the past several years leading to this day epitomizes the motto … patients first and partners always,” added 59th Medical Wing Vice Commander Brig. Gen. John DeGoes.

The new building took about 21 months to complete at a cost of more than $12 million.

“Having this clinic nested inside the Department of Surgery and academically affiliated with our Emergency Medicine training programs positions this clinic well for the future,” Johnson said.

The new clinic houses a multi-person chamber to accommodate up to six patients at one time. It is pressurized with air and patients breathe oxygen underneath a hood or with a mask. Generally, a treatment plan will consist of 90 minutes of hyperbaric oxygen daily for six weeks or more.  While in the chamber, patients can recline in a comfortable chair and watch TV or read.

A single chamber is also available for an individual patient to receive treatment. The facility was built so that an additional multi-person can be added if needed in the future.

According to the Undersea & Hyperbaric Medical Society, or UHMS, hyperbaric oxygen is an intervention in which an individual breathes nearly 100 percent oxygen while inside a hyperbaric chamber that is pressurized to greater than sea level pressure.

Hyperbaric chambers and hyperbaric oxygen therapy have been in use for centuries, but it wasn’t until the early 1930s that the military developed and tested hyperbaric oxygen for purposes specifically in the area of deep sea diving and later in aeronautics.

 “San Antonio has a long history with hyperbaric medicine,” said Air Force Col. (Dr.) Michael Richards, Undersea & Hyperbaric Medicine Service chief. “It began at Brooks Air Force Base back in the 60s then moved to Wilford Hall in March 2008 and stayed there for the next eight years, until it was decided that it should move to BAMC.”

Oxygen therapy has become very popular in treating a wide variety of things, explained Richards. “We follow the guidelines, or 14 indications, outlined by the UHMS,” he said.

“Other specialties focus on one organ system; we treat 14 different things and they are very broad in their scope,” Richards said. “We have one drug and we treat 14 different things. The one drug we have is oxygen under pressure.”

Richards said most of their patients are seen on an outpatient basis. The most common indicators treated at the clinic are people who have wounds that won’t heal and injuries from radiation therapy.

Some of the other illnesses and injuries that can be treated with oxygen therapy are air or gas embolism, carbon monoxide poisoning, decompression sickness, crush Injuries, arterial insufficiencies, severe anemia and acute thermal burns.

“The most important thing is to have a facility where we can treat all 14 of our indications,” Richards said. “Some of the big ones are only things you would see in a tertiary care center like carbon monoxide poisoning, traumas and crush injuries.”

The BAMC hyperbaric facility is the only hyperbaric medicine facility in South Texas with 24-hour capability to treat emergencies. 

“The capabilities and capacity described by Dr. Richards demonstrate our continued and joint commitment to excellence in both operational medicine and delivery of health care to even the most complex patients at the medical health systems largest and most productive inpatient facility,” DeGoes said.

More information about the indicators for hyperbaric oxygen therapy can be found on the UHMS website at