The transformative benefits of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) continue to make waves in medical circles, as evidenced by the remarkable recovery story of patients undergoing treatment at Ingalls Family Care Center.

HBOT is a medical treatment that enhances the body’s natural healing process by inhalation of 100% oxygen in a total body chamber, where atmospheric pressure is increased and controlled. It is used for a wide range of maladies and has been shown to help accelerate the healing of various conditions including severe infections, bubbles of air in your blood vessels, and wounds that won’t heal as a result of diabetes or radiation injury.

A recent example of HBOT’s effectiveness was highlighted in a patient’s journey at the Ingalls Family Care Center, part of the University of Chicago Medicine. This particular patient, after suffering from a non-healing wound that was resistant to other forms of treatment, found significant relief through HBOT. The treatment effectively decreased the wound size and pain, showcasing how HBOT can directly enhance tissue repair and alleviate suffering in chronic conditions.

The Science Behind Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and Its Role in Preventing Amputations

At the core of HBOT’s efficacy is its ability to increase oxygen levels in the blood, which fosters a higher concentration of oxygen reaching damaged tissues. This process promotes better blood flow and capillary growth, reduces swelling and inflammation, and significantly enhances the ability of white blood cells to fight infection. By providing a highly oxygenated environment, HBOT helps to stimulate the release of substances called growth factors and stem cells, which promote healing.

Moreover, HBOT’s power to fight infections plays a critical role in preventing amputations, particularly for patients with diabetes or peripheral arterial disease. These conditions often lead to wounds that do not heal due to poor circulation and other complications. Infections in these wounds can escalate quickly, increasing the risk of amputation. By improving oxygen supply, HBOT not only helps to reduce the risk of infection but also supports the body’s immune response and accelerates wound healing. The increased oxygen levels can directly kill certain types of bacteria and enhance the effectiveness of antibiotics, providing a dual-action approach against infection. This therapeutic method increases the likelihood of saving limbs by healing wounds that might otherwise lead to amputation if left untreated.

Impact on Patients

The experience of the patient at Ingalls Family Care Center serves as a compelling testament to the power of HBOT. The patient’s improvement underscores the therapy’s potential to dramatically enhance quality of life for individuals with similar conditions. It also highlights the importance of accessible HBOT services as part of broader healthcare offerings, enabling more patients to receive this potentially life-altering treatment.

As a lifelong construction worker and dedicated family man, Ken Leslie knows a lot about building sturdy foundations.

But Leslie’s own physical structure was weakened in 2022 by a stubborn wound that wouldn’t heal. Left untreated, it could have required an amputation of his right leg and foot.

“It would have been devastating to me for driving,” said Leslie, 65, a father of two and a grandfather of four.

Leslie, who has peripheral vascular disease, neuropathy, diabetes and end-stage renal disease, said his health “just seemed to fall apart” after Dawn, his wife of 43 years, died from complications due to several strokes. And despite Leslie’s best efforts to tend to his year-old foot wound, the situation didn’t improve.

The Orland Park resident turned to the UChicago Medicine Ingalls Memorial Hospital and its comprehensive wound care services led by Joseph Durham, MD*, medical director of hyperbaric services, and Dale Brink, DPM*, as well as a nursing staff with more than 70 combined years of experience.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for wound care in Chicago

By the time Leslie reached Ingalls, the infection was so extensive it required an emergency department admission. The hospital’s wound care staff quickly deployed a team approach to improve circulation to Leslie’s foot and eliminate the infection.

Although Brink ultimately had to amputate Leslie’s pinky toe, he saved the foot, preserving Leslie’s independence — including his ability to drive and shop, to spend time with his grandsons and to keep a meticulously clean house like Dawn always did.

The care didn’t stop there. Every weekday morning for three months, Leslie drove to Ingalls for hyperbaric oxygen therapy, in which patients enter a specialized chamber to breathe pure oxygen at several times higher than a regular environment. The increased oxygen in the bloodstream not only enhances wound healing, but it also kills bacteria, Durham said.

The hospital’s two chambers are among just a few available locally, and they attract wound-care patients from Chicago, the south suburbs and Northwest Indiana. The therapy is a strong option for patients without other options, Durham said, and it requires extended commitment.

“I never took a day off,” said Leslie, whose wound healed completely after 50 sessions. “I went every day, and they commended me for it.”

Comprehensive wound care at Ingalls Memorial Hospital

The Hyperbaric and Wound Center at Ingalls provides care for every type of wound — including diabetic wounds, pressure sores, bone infections, burns and radiation burns, Durham said. The hyperbaric chamber also has been used to heal nipple-sparing procedures after mastectomies.

Diabetic foot ulcers are the most common cases. That’s because patients with diabetes often lack sensation in their feet, so they could have large sores and not know it. “These can progress to be life-threatening if not recognized and attended to in a timely manner,” Durham said.

Brink credits a team approach to wound care at Ingalls, which includes vascular surgery, podiatry, general surgery and physical therapy. In particular, the physical therapy team has a lymphedema program that helps reduce swelling, making the wound heal more quickly, while the wound care team aggressively treats difficult wounds.

“A lot of the patients we see have extremely challenging issues,” Brink said. “Oftentimes, we get patients who have either stalled or failed with treatments at other places, and so we have to come up with new solutions.”

Physical therapy and wound care are located next door to each other at Ingalls, which allows Durham and Brink to easily check in with patients during their PT appointments. It’s one of many ways Ingalls clinicians get to know patients personally on their journey to saving a limb and maintaining independence.

“I don’t think the average person realizes how life-altering an amputation is,” Durham said. “With the prosthetics available now, if someone has to lose their leg, it’s not the end of the world. But, of course, it’s better to save a limb than to lose it.”

When to seek care for a wound that won’t heal

A wound that hasn’t healed, stays the same or gets larger within four weeks requires medical care.

“That’s an indication that it’s not progressing and that we need to do something different or get a closer look at it,” Brink said. “We make sure that we’ve left no stone unturned trying to give them the best outcomes possible.”

Durham said patients should watch for redness, increasing pain, and any drainage or odor as well. “If the wound started off as something small and it’s enlarging, you certainly don’t want to wait a month,” Durham said, noting that delays only worsen outcomes or heighten the risk of amputation.

“Like most medical problems, the sooner you treat them, the easier they are to resolve.”

Renewed mobility and independence after wound treatment

Leslie is grateful to the wound care team at Ingalls, who gave him back the freedom to easily enjoy time with his daughters, Danielle and Nicole. He likes being able to hop in his van on a whim to drive to the store or to cruise the roundabout roads he’d take with Dawn after her strokes, holding hands.

These days, Leslie also finds himself at the cemetery visiting her. After an hour, as he gets ready to leave, he knows his improved health and mobility will allow a return. “All right, Dawn, I’m going to take off,” he’ll say. “I’ll be back.”

Cited By: UChicago Medicine


The story of the patient at Ingalls, as reported by the University of Chicago Medicine, not only reinforces the clinical benefits of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy but also exemplifies its role in the broader context of healthcare. By improving outcomes in complex, non-responsive conditions, HBOT stands out as a critical component of advanced medical therapy. As we continue to uncover the mechanisms and effects of this treatment, its application is likely to expand, bringing hope and healing to more patients facing severe medical challenges.