Summerlin Hospital expands care options

This place has plenty of bells and whistles. Some of them are probes that attach to your head.

Summerlin Hospital Medical Center, 657 N. Town Center Drive, has unveiled its new Sleep Center and new Wound and Hyperbaric Center, both contained in one area.

The hospital held an open house March 8 to unveil the new center.

"It's just one more component for us that we offer the community," said Lori Harris, director of marketing for Summerlin Hospital.

The Sleep Center has two units made to look like homey bedrooms. Used mostly for sleep apnea cases, technicians can monitor body functions and determine oxygen levels while the subject is asleep. It requires a compact unit of lead lines be attached to one's head and body. One might wonder how much data technicians can gather when patients are kept awake by wires running under their clothes and electrodes glued to them.

"If they can get them to a certain level of sleep, even if it's not a deep sleep, they can monitor their breathing patterns," said Kerrie Iannuccilli, administrative director of therapy services and outpatient clinics at Summerlin Hospital. "That's what they really want, the breathing patterns and the oxygenation of the blood. People, at different levels of sleep, their (levels) do read differently, depending on which level of sleep they're at. They try to get something from it."

Down the hall is a large room holding two hyperbaric chambers. Alayna Capo, certified hyperbaric technologist, holds court there. The oversized test tube-like chambers hold a single person each. Capo slides the patient into the chamber using a sled on rails.

Once inside, the air is swapped for pure medical-grade oxygen, and the air pressure is slowly increased until it's the equivalent to being 40 feet deep in water. The result is oxygen infusing every cell of the body, cutting healing time by as much as two thirds.

In most cases, patients feel no ill effects.

"Normally, they're pretty energized (afterward), and they're feeling kind of upbeat," she said. "It's all that extra oxygen."

The chambers are used in many types of cases -- diabetic foot wounds, ulcers that are open to the bone, gangrene cases, carbon monoxide poisoning, arterial gas embolisms, failed skin grafts and radiation exposure.

Summerlin Hospital started using the hyperbaric chambers Jan. 29. Patients spend up to 110 minutes in them at a time.

Each unit cost $93,000.

Dr. Lee Wittenberg, one of several attending physicians at the clinic, spoke to the history of the hyperbaric chamber and how it was used by the military so Navy divers didn't get "the bends." They noticed the diver's wounds healed 30 to 40 percent faster after being in the chamber, he said.

When it came into use for the general public, "there were all these weird trends, like they thought it would make you younger," he said. "They even built a hyperbaric hotel."

He was speaking of the Cunningham Sanitarium in Cleveland, which used oxygen therapy to treat diabetes, high blood pressure and other illnesses. The five-story structure was a sphere that opene d in 1928. The 900-ton steel sphere contained 40 rooms with baths and cost $1 million to build, about $12.9 million in today's money. The hotel had to be dismantled because of World War II's never-ending need for steel.

"There are pictures of the hotel, it's pretty cool," he added. "But it was pretty dangerous because they didn't know that you weren't supposed to smoke."

There are still potential hazards to using pure oxygen, but he said it's safe as long as it's monitored correctly. Patients are monitored constantly while they're inside, and if the technician needs to step out of the room, a physician takes over.

Near the bedroom settings are four examination rooms for outpatient wound care procedures. The clinic also is used for diabetes education on an outpatient basis.

"We can have up to 20 people, but we prefer to keep it under 10," Iannuccilli said. "That way people get one-on-one attention."

Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at or 387-2949.


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