Legislature considers funding hyperbaric testing
A bill to fund a pilot project to fund hyperbaric treatment for patients with traumatic brain injury would not likely include the hyperbaric treatment facility at Jamestown Regional Medical Center, according to Amanda Lausch, a board certified family nurse practitioner working with JRMC's hyperbaric chamber.
During hyperbaric chamber treatment, a person is placed within a pressurized chamber with a high level of oxygen. The oxygen can help heal tissue. Lausch said the JRMC hyperbaric chamber is used for a variety of treatments including diabetic ulcers and bone infections that don't respond to typical treatments.
"Brain injury is not an approved indication to use hyperbaric treatment," she said. "Traumatic brain injury research is very conflicting."
House Bill 1359 was recently amended to move the pilot project from the Medicaid program to the North Dakota Department of Health. The bill provides $335,000 to contract with a third party to implement the pilot program.
Rep. Dick Anderson, R-Willow City, introduced the bill after seeing results at the Healing with Hyperbarics Clinic in Fargo. The clinic is operated by Dr. Daphne Denham, a general surgeon, according to its website.
Anderson said he had seen improvements in quality of life of people with brain injuries after hyperbaric treatment at the Fargo clinic.
"I'm trying to get her (Denham) some help," Anderson said. "Her protocol works."
Anderson said the pilot program would be operated by Denham using protocols she has developed.
"We're trying to get it funded through the state rather than federal funding," he said. "Once we have a trial, insurance companies may cover. It's lower cost than other care."
Lausch said most clinical studies are funded by the National Institute of Health or other similar organization. The studies move forward after the treatment protocols and the methodology of the study are approved.
Lausch said the idea of more research was a positive, although she said the bill does not include all the components of a medical study such as control groups, definitions of who would be treated or the timeline for determining results.
"I'm in favor of the concept," she said. "Not necessarily the execution of the bill."
Anderson said the bill passed the Human Services Committee as amended earlier this week.
"It goes to the Budget Section in the House next," he said.
The bill has not been scheduled for a vote by the House of Representatives.