Frequently Asked Questions re Emergency Treatment for Decompression Illness
We understand that being admitted for emergency treatment at a hyperbaric facility is something that most people are unfamiliar with. We are here to help the patient and the people that are with them; dive buddies, friends and family.
We hope that the information provided below is useful to you.
If you have any more questions please speak to a member of staff if you are at the Plymouth Hyperbaric Centre with us, or contact us by telephone or email.
For UK and EU citizens, the NHS pay for recompression for DCI. For divers from elsewhere, diving insurance will be required to pay for treatment.
The Diving Physician will decide, based on information from the diver, their buddies, the emergency services, and from findings on examination, whether a diver needs recompression, and if so, which treatment table should be used.
We can download most dive computers and these can provide helpful information about what happened, so it is helpful if a diver brings it with them.
If a diver has missed a lot of decompression but has no symptoms, the Diving Physician may recommend a short recompression therapy to reduce their risk of developing DCI.
Our on call team consists of a Diving Physician, Chamber Supervisor, Chamber Operator and Hyperbaric Nurse or Chamber Attendant who is a trained Diver Medic Technician.
The full team are present during each and every treatment to provide immediate assistance should it be required.
All equipment in the chamber has been checked to ensure it is safe to use under pressure.
Emergency recompression for DCI may last between 4¾ hours to 7½ hours depending on the severity of the DCI and response to treatment. Most divers make full recovery after one or two treatments, but divers with more severe injury may need significantly more.
Initial emergency treatments will usually be in one of our multi-place hyperbaric chambers. Cotton scrubs are provided to wear in the chamber, for comfort and safety. A Chamber Attendant or Hyperbaric Nurse will be in the chamber throughout treatment.
During compression, the chamber becomes warm and noisy for a short time and cooler during recompression. Oxygen or heliox is administered through a hood or a mask and removed at set intervals for ‘air breaks’. A diver needs to equalise their ears, just as if they were in the water. Regular checks will be made on a diver’s progress during treatment.
There is video and audio communication between the inside and outside of the chamber. A video recording is made of each treatment to fulfil HSE legislation.
It is possible to drink and eat at certain points during the treatment and toilet facilities are available in the chamber. If a diver is dehydrated, a drip providing intravenous fluid will be set up. Occasionally other medical intervention may be required such as bladder catheterisation.
A diver who has been recompressed will be asked to stay within close proximity of the chamber in case of relapse of DCI and reassessed by the Diving Physician the next day. After the first treatment, and assuming the diver has not needed admission to hospital, it is sensible for a friend/relative to stay with the diver.
Family and friends are welcome at the centre but we are not able to provide overnight accommodation. WiFi, TV, tea and coffee making facilities are available.
A diver being treated will be accommodated nearby at no charge along with a companion sharing the diver’s room. Occasionally for medical reasons, a diver may need to be admitted to Derriford Hospital, which is adjacent to our centre.
Most divers do return to diving. A minimum of one month off diving after DCI is usually recommended but advice about this will be given on an individual basis.
DDRC Healthcare offers follow-up to all divers treated for DCI. The Diving Physician will recommend a certain time off diving and a ‘Bend Review’. A medical will be offered after that time, at no cost to the diver. A follow-up medical is sensible to ensure fitness to return to diving, and is required for dive holiday insurance.
For recreational divers – a recreational medical will be offered, for divers with an existing in date HSE diving medical, an HSE medical will be offered.
Individual advice will be given to each diver with respect to driving, returning to work and other activity. A diver who has made a full recovery after DCI should not fly for a minimum of three days after recompression. Divers who have not made full recovery will be advised on an individual basis.