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Wound center opens at UPMC McKeesport

| Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, 4:47 a.m.
Wound Healing Services at UPMC McKeesport clinical director Gina Ruggieri puts information into the computer for 'patient' office assistant Kerrie Graham. Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News

Many of the 5 million people who suffer from nonhealing wounds do not seek treatment.

The UPMC Wound Healing Services at UPMC McKeesport hopes to encourage people to seek treatment.

Dr. Arthur Fine heads the center, which opened this week in the Painter Building.

“We needed a center here because there is a big population either having wounds under treated or not treated at all, or they are going to another hospital for the treatment. It is good for the patients to have a service like this available here,” he said.

Most nonhealing wounds are caused by diabetes, poor circulation, vascular diseases, traumatic injuries and pressure ulcers. Left untreated, the risk of amputation increases.

“A lot of people are hesitant to come to a wound center because they fear amputation,” Fine said. “Our big goal with leg wounds is to reduce the chance of amputation.”

The latest wound-healing technologies and advanced treatments are offered at the center, including systemic hyperbaric oxygen therapy, negative pressure wound therapy, bioengineered skin substitutes, and aggressive medical and surgical interventions.

Fine, a general surgeon, said hyperbaric oxygen therapy is “not useful for everything, but for some wounds it's the only thing that works.”

The treatment uses oxygen at a level higher than atmospheric pressure, which provides 15 to 20 times the normal amount of oxygen to tissue. That increases the body's natural wound-healing mechanisms that rely on oxygen.

“Some wounds don't do well because they are not getting enough oxygen,” he said. “With this therapy, tissue without oxygen will begin to heal.”

The noninvasive hyperbaric oxygen therapy session generally takes about two hours and up to 40 sessions can be prescribed. The patient lies on a specialized stretcher that goes inside a spacious glass-enclosed chamber. Inside, the chamber is pressurized similar to a diver going down into the water. At the end of the session, the chamber is depressurized slowly, like when a diver returns to the surface. During the treatment, the patient can watch television. For those concerned about claustrophobic feelings, the domed shape of the chamber helps ease a sense of closeness.

This treatment can be used to care for complex nonhealing wounds including those caused by radiation burns, chronic osteomyelitis, osteoradionecrosis, and compartment syndrome.

“With a lot of wounds it's not always as simple as putting a Band-Aid on it,” general surgeon Marc Cordero said. “Not all wounds will heal on their own.”

A multi-disciplinary team is involved with the center including general surgeons Fine, Cordero, Mumtaz Alvi and Showri Palepu; podiatrists Donald Beck and Jon Kelly; plastic surgeon Sandeep Kathju; and vascular surgeon Madhusudanan Nair.

“The center is new but our people are not,” Fine said of the team. “We all have experience with wound care and now we are doing it together.”

Fine said their care will be tracked against national models to determine if what they are doing needs modification. “We want to be the best so the care we provide here becomes the national benchmark.

“We are excited to be able to offer wound-healing services at McKeesport,” Fine said. “This is an idea whose time has come. Nonhealing wounds are a huge issue for a lot of people and a lot of those people are either not being treated or being under-treated.”

Carol Waterloo Frazier is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1916, or