After radiation treatment for prostate cancer, Hector Torres experienced painful bleeding in the bladder due to tissue damage.

It kept him from enjoying travel, favorite hobbies and day-to-day activities – until he receive hyperbaric oxygen therapy at Regional One Health.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy helps patients grow new blood vessels, which promotes healing for radiation damage, diabetic wounds, burns and many more conditions.

Hector Torres remembers traveling to a conference to Maui, excited to explore the stunning environment, then being stuck in his hotel room for three days due to side effects from radiation treatment for prostate cancer. He remembers going to restaurants and needing to leave early, or prepping for what he’d do if pain and discomfort interfered when he ran errands.

“That was the theme. If I was traveling, or even just going to the mall or out to eat, I couldn’t count on being able to enjoy the experience,” Hector said. “I couldn’t look forward to things. I had to always think about where I could go or what I could do to get around the situation.”

At Regional One Health, urologist Dr. Robert Wake referred him to Dr. Tony Alleman, medical director for wound care and hyperbaric medicine, for hyperbaric oxygen therapy, a state-of-the-art treatment in a multi-place chamber that isn’t available anywhere else in the Mid-South.

A few months later, “It’s like night and day,” Hector said. “It made a tremendous difference. I’ve been able to get back to my normal routine, and I’m back to just enjoying the little things.”

After treatment for prostate cancer, Hector experienced bleeding in the bladder, which can occur if tissue and blood vessels are damaged by radiation.

The condition causes blood in the urine and painful clots and blockages. “Even trying to walk upstairs would cause it to bleed. I could hardly do anything,” he said. “At times, it got to where I would be up almost all night long because I couldn’t void completely due to the blockages.”

Dr. Tony Alleman said hyperbaric oxygen therapy is the best or only treatment option for conditions like decompression sickness, radiation damage and more: “There’s nothing else patients can do. To be able to provide this treatment in the Mid-South is huge in terms of quality of life for these patients.”

He describes the pain as close to having kidney stones. It could last for weeks at a time.

Fortunately, Regional One Health’s Firefighters Burn Center and Wound Care Center is home to the only multi-place hyperbaric oxygen chamber in Tennessee, and Dr. Alleman is one of the state’s only physicians who is board-certified in hyperbaric medicine.

“This type of bleeding is a fairly common thing among patients who are treated with radiation for prostate cancer,” Dr. Alleman said. “Radiation damaged areas in the bladder can bleed when they no longer have a normal lining.”

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy sparks the body’s own healing processes.

“It helps heal damaged tissues by growing blood vessels into areas that need more blood flow,” Dr. Alleman explained. “It gives the patient blood supply that heals the tissue.”

Patients go on a series of “dives” in the hyperbaric chamber, during which the body is exposed to 100 percent oxygen under pressure. Each dive lasts about two hours, and patients typically receive treatment five days a week for six to eight weeks.

While Hector was familiar with hyperbaric therapy for wound care – he was a patient at the burn center in 1988 and actually watched the chamber being installed – he was surprised it could be used for radiation side effects.  Still, he was more than willing to give it a try.

He’s glad he did.

Hector noted the team is flexible and works with each patient’s schedule – at one point, he was able to take a week off when he had another commitment. He experienced excellent communication about everything from potential side effects to guidelines for being inside the chamber, like not wearing gels or deodorants that can interfere with the treatment.

“Dr. Alleman explained the whole process in detail. If I had questions, he made sure he answered them. Every day he’d ask how things were going and whether I had any issues,” Hector said.

Hector Torres said the difference after receiving hyperbaric oxygen therapy is “like night and day.” He’s back to enjoying working in his yard, traveling, and spending time with his family.

He also found his treatment painless and non-invasive: “They had the TV on; you could play games or talk to other people in the chamber. A lot of people had crossword puzzles or word searches, or you could read. You could lay down and sleep if you had the space available!”

Hector’s treatment included 40 dives over eight weeks. Within a few weeks, he saw a noticeable improvement; by the time he finished, his symptoms were 95 percent gone.

Dr. Alleman said those results are the norm with hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

“We see great results. In the case of the radiation necrosis of the bladder, if we treat patients within six months of when they start bleeding, we have over a 90 percent chance of improving their symptoms,” he said. “If we treat them after six months, we still have an 80 percent chance of improvement.”

Hyperbaric therapy also treats decompression sickness, diabetic ulcers and wounds, burns, crush injuries and traumatic injuries, necrotizing infections, carbon monoxide poisoning, osteomyelitis, gas gangrene, severe anemia, arterial insufficiencies, and sudden hearing and vision loss.

Dr. Alleman noted for many of those conditions, including Hector’s, hyperbaric oxygen is the only option. “There’s nothing else patients can do,” he said. “To be able to provide this treatment in the Mid-South is huge in terms of quality of life for these patients.”

It certainly was for Hector, who is back to traveling, working on his 4-acre property, and just enjoying being able to go places without worrying about pain and discomfort.

“It may seem like an odd treatment you’ve never heard of, but it is well worth the time and process,” he said. “The people I saw in there had a variety of issues, and everyone had positive results. It can get you back to as normal a routine as possible.”

For more, visit