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When Javier Ibrán founded the first Dressel Divers dive center in the Caribbean in 1994, looking for the nearest decompression chamber and drawing up a collaboration agreement for its maintenance was one of the first things he did.
All Dressel Divers dive centers in the Caribbean Sea, Atlantic Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea have a similar agreement with the nearest decompression chamber.
Decompression chambers and professionals who work there are expensive to maintain, more so if they have to be open 24/7, even more in countries with scarce economic resources.
People who dive with Dressel Divers are sure they can count on a hyperbaric dive chamber even if they don’t use it at all.
We have an unstained historical safety record with a 0% accident rate thanks to our exquisite safety measures. Still, we know that having a hyperbaric chamber near our bases is a treatment guarantee and the best way to treat decompression injuries should they occur. Thus, all Dressel Divers professionals and guests contribute to their maintenance. We do that only to keep it working, even if we never need it.
Today we talk about decompression chambers. Take a look at the table of contents.
1. What are Decompression Chambers?
Decompression chamber, recompression chamber, compression chambers, or diving chamber are different names for the same instrument. You can find it in a hospital, U.S. Navy barracks, a rescue boat, or even in an American Football player’s home.
The variety of names is related to the different uses of these devices.
What are Decompression Chambers Used For?
A hyperbaric dive chamber or compression chamber can rescue a group of people trapped in a sunken submarine as well as finish a decompression on the surface that has not been done correctly during a dive. These chambers treat decompression sickness when it occurs and relieve non-diving related sicknesses such as severe anemia, brain abscess, burns, and many others. They are also used for diver training and scientific experiments.
How Does a Recompression Chamber Work?
A recompression chamber works by combining high flows of pure oxygen with higher than atmospheric pressure. It’s possible to attain and keep different ambient pressures inside the chamber to simulate depth pressure.
So, diving chambers are used to perform oxygen therapy treatments, a hyperbaric dive chamber allows the lungs to receive much more oxygen than would be possible by breathing at normal air pressure.
A diving decompression chamber is cylinder-shaped, usually made of steel, with a sealed watertight compartment. The interior is large enough to fit, at least, one human being lying down or sitting down.
Compression chambers treat various diseases. The most related to diving are CO2 poisoning, air embolism, and decompression illness (DCI).
2. Types Of Diving Chambers
There are different types of diving chambers. There are underwater decompression chambers and hyperbaric systems operating on the surface.
Within the most important uses for scuba diving, we can distinguish decompression chambers and recompression chambers.
Decompression chambers can be in the water or on land and are mostly used for divers working with outside air supply, for example, military or commercial divers. They spend a lot of time underwater at great depths. Decompression chambers allow them to finish the decompression process at the surface.
Therapeutic recompression chambers are used to treat DCI and treat other diseases.
As we have said, these are different types of uses for the same technology.
3. Decompression Illness Treatment with a Hyperbaric Dive Chamber
As we explained in the article Divers’ Decompression Principles – Everything You Need to Know About Them, DCI happens when our body cannot remove the dissolved nitrogen in the blood while diving.
The best way to avoid this issue is to dive within the limits of no-decompression diving or, for more advanced divers, make the decompression stops necessary to remove dissolved nitrogen from the body.
Symptoms of DCI include joint pain, tingling or numbness in the extremities, nausea, headache, and fatigue. When these symptoms appear, the patient is treated in a decompression room o hyperbaric dive chamber.
The patient is submitted to an atmospheric pressure of 3ATA or higher and provided medicinal oxygen through an inhaler. These pressure conditions allow the lungs to process much more oxygen than breathing pure oxygen at normal air pressure. In addition, the increased pressure reduces the size of the nitrogen bubbles accumulated in the body, while the extra oxygen accelerates their evacuation.
4. What You Can Expect From Dive Decompression Chambers
Treatment includes three phases:
Pressurization. Over 10 to 15 minutes, the pressure builds slowly, and patients must equalize the ears.
Treatment. When the diving decompression chamber reaches the prescribed pressure levels, the patient receives oxygen for approximately two hours.
Decompression. After the treatment, the pressure in the diving chamber drops back to normal levels. The pressure slowly decreases, simulating a very slow ascent, which allows a diver’s tissues to slow degas the nitrogen. Specialized medical personnel from outside the machine control the phases and the patient vital signs.
Except in extremely severe cases, which will need to repeat the treatment, the patients recover completely after one correct treatment in a hyperbaric dive chamber.
5. What To Do If You Suspect a DCI?
According to DAN, the person in charge must move the injured diver to the closest hyperbaric medicine center emergency room. Meanwhile, the diver should breathe 100% norm baric oxygen.
However, there have been cases where symptoms have appeared up to 36 hours after the dive. Only a doctor can diagnose decompression sickness, so do not delay a visit to the doctor if you suspect it.
The doctors will stabilize the patient and rule out other diseases, such as pneumothorax, myocardial infarction, etc.
At Dressel Divers, we have a detailed emergency plan. Also, we have collaboration agreements with the closest operating compression chambers. Of course, there is oxygen equipment on all our diving boats and in our centers. You can consult our emergency plan and evacuation protocol if you wish.
Contact us for more information about decompression chambers, hyperbaric chambers locations, or emergency plans.
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