St. Luke's University Health Network

News

New Hyperbaric Chamber

New State-of-the-Art Hyperbaric Chamber in Allentown

Hyperbaric Chamber Retires from after 35 Years of Service

Allentown, PA (11/21/2008) - After 35 years of service, St. Luke's Hospital - Allentown Campus retired its hyperbaric chamber this week. This hyperbaric chamber was the first one in the Lehigh Valley for (the)many years, is the only chamber used in the Lehigh Valley on a 24 hours a day, 7 day a week emergency basis and has treated tens of thousands of patients in need of hyperbaric therapy.

Bob Toth, manager of St. Luke's hyperbaric program, stands with the hyperbaric chamber that retired this week after 35 years of service. A new hyperbaric chamber was delivered and installed this week after the “retirement.”

The chamber at the former Allentown Osteopathic Hospital was manufactured by the Bethlehem Corporation, a now-defunct company, in 1973. The unit was valued at $26,000 at the time and was donated by local industrialist William L. Hoernle, according to a 1973 hospital publication.

Ralph Stolz, DO, Medical Director of Hyperbaric Medicine, was one of the first physicians in the Lehigh Valley to use the chamber and considers the unit to be one of the most reliable machines he's ever used. “This particular chamber is one of the oldest running monoplace chambers in the country,” Dr. Stolz said. “This chamber has been in use for 35 years and has given between 30 and 40,000 treatments in that time.”

Some of the most common uses for hyperbaric chambers include carbon monoxide poisoning, wound care and post-radiation therapy. The chamber forces oxygen into the bloodstream, which oxygenates tissue that is deprived of oxygen. The treatment length varies from 60 to 90 minutes. Hyperbaric treatment slows down the reproductive rate of bacteria and encourages the formation of new blood vessels, which improves the healing process for many people with diabetes and for cancer patients after they have completed radiation treatments, explained Dr. Stolz.

Hyperbaric medicine is also used to treat SCUBA divers from a painful condition called the “bends” which results from surfacing too quickly after a dive without proper decompression. In fact, hyperbaric treatments are called “dives” by clinicians. As a SCUBA instructor at the local YMCA when the hospital was offered the chamber, Dr. Stolz was a natural fit to provide medical direction to the hyperbaric program at St. Luke's. And, he points out that patients from New York, Maryland, Delaware and as far away as Connecticut have been treated at the Allentown-based chamber.

Robert Toth, RRT, CHT, coordinator of hyperbaric medicine at St. Luke's Hospital – Allentown Campus, has been using the machine since 1980 to treat patients. “After 35 years of service, this chamber deserves a good retirement! While we're sorry to see our old chamber go out of service, we're very excited to be able to treat patients at St. Luke's with the new chamber.”

A new state-of-the-art hyperbaric chamber was installed this week at the hospital after some basic renovations to the hyperbaric treatment room. The new chamber is larger in diameter and is completely transparent from end to end. These features will allow patients to be more comfortable during the treatment and will help to reduce claustrophobia and confinement anxiety. The new chamber is able to accommodate patients up to 700 pounds. The chamber has a number of patient monitoring and support interfaces available, including respiratory support, which will be available to patients who come to St. Luke's Hospital – Allentown Campus in the future.

The BaraMed XD Monoplace Hyperbaric Chamber ® is manufactured by ETC BioMedical Systems Group in Southampton, Pa. More information may be found on the following website: etcbiomedical.com/bms_monobaramedxd.php.

Bob Toth, manager of St. Luke's hyperbaric program, stands with the hyperbaric chamber that retired this week after 35 years of service. A new hyperbaric chamber was delivered and installed this week after the “retirement.”