Who goes in a hyperbaric chamber?
We have several hyperbaric chambers here at DDRC but the two main ones we use are a big multi-person chamber called the Krug and a one-person chamber which we refer to as the Mono.
The main use of our chambers is the emergency treatment of divers that have decompression illness. During treatment, the diver will lay or sit inside the chamber with an attendant that will monitor them. An attendant operates the oxygen administration and will communicate with the chamber operators outside. They also have some medical knowledge and can help assess the divers during treatment. A doctor may also enter the chamber if needed, but they usually do not stay inside for the duration (which can be 5-8 hours sometimes!).
So apart from divers, who else uses our chambers?
Every day we try to run at least one dive; this is to ensure that the chamber is kept up and running and everything is working correctly in case an emergency arises. Operating the chamber regularly keeps our chamber staff up to date with their skills and ensures all equipment is functioning as it should.
We also have daily elective patients who attend for 2-hour sessions of hyperbaric oxygen treatment. Giving oxygen under pressure has been shown to be of benefit in certain conditions where it can promote tissue and wound healing. We offer therapy to patients with conditions such as slow healing wounds, diabetic foot ulcers and tissue injury related to radiation. These patients are referred in by their specialist consultant and we must make sure that they are medically well enough to have treatment under pressure. Again, these patients will be accompanied by an attendant who will look after them and the number of treatments given will vary depending on their specific medical problem. Occasionally, these referrals can be for more urgent issues such as carbon monoxide poisoning, or acute sensorineural hearing loss and we must get these patients in the chamber as soon as possible.
Finally, sometimes we have ‘pot-dives’ where dive clubs or participants on our training courses will go in the chamber to experience what it is like to be under pressure. These dives are usually a little deeper than our treatment dives so that participants can experience nitrogen narcosis – a feeling akin to being drunk that occurs at deeper pressures. These dives tend to be shorter as the chamber is not being used as a therapeutic intervention.
As a cautionary note, there are many private hyperbaric facilities throughout the UK that may offer treatments for indications that we are unable to provide treatment for. It may be that there is a lack of evidence for these specific indications or studies have shown hyperbaric therapy to be dangerous for patients with these health conditions. It’s important to remember that oxygen should be prescribed and that properly qualified healthcare professionals should be involved in giving hyperbaric oxygen.
If you are researching hyperbaric therapy, please talk to your consultant/GP first and look for chambers that are part of the British Hyperbaric Association (BHA), as they have been rigorously audited to ensure they are providing the best possible care.
If you are interested in learning more about hyperbaric therapy here at DDRC please go to the Hyperbaric section of our website: Hyperbarics – DDRC Healthcare
If your dive club would like to arrange a pot-dive please go to the Talks & Tours section of our website: Talks & Tours – DDRC Healthcare