How Decompression Chambers Work

Photo by Jayme Pastoric
Photo by Jayme Pastoric

A decompression chamber is a device used to prevent and treat decompression sickness (the bends), a disorder caused by a rapid decrease in the external pressure on the body. When a person is exposed to great external pressure, as in deep-sea diving or caisson work, additional nitrogen from the air enters his body tissues and fluids. Normally, most of the nitrogen a person inhales is exhaled without being absorbed by the body. However, as the external pressure increases, a larger amount of nitrogen is absorbed, and it is carried by the blood to the body tissues.

If a person returns to normal atmospheric pressure too rapidly, the nitrogen may come out of solution and form bubbles. These bubbles may then obstruct blood vessels or distort body tissues, causing pain and sometimes paralysis. The basic principle of a decompression chamber is to allow the pressure on the body to be reduced slowly enough so that the dissolved gas can escaj>e without forming bubbles.

A typical decompression chamber is a steel cylinder 5 to 6 feet (1.5-2 meters) in diameter and 8 to 10 feet (2-4 meters) in length. However, the chamber may be any size or shape so long as it is large enough to contain a person and can safely withstand the required internal gas pressure.

There are several different ways in which decompression chambers are used. In surface decompression, divers emerge rather quickly from the water, enter the chamber, and are then re-compressed with air to the pressure equivalent to that of their underwater environment. The pressure inside the chamber is then slowly reduced until it is the same as the pressure outside the chamber.

A submersible decompression chamber is one that is lowered into the water and filled with a pressurized gas that serves to keep the water out in the same way that water is kept out of a submerged inverted tumbler. After working, the divers return to the chamber, seal the hatch, and they are then hauled on deck where their decompression is completed. Once on deck, the chamber may be connected to a deck decompression chamber so that the divers may be transferred to larger, more comfortable quarters without any decrease in pressure.

More by this Author

  • Dolls

    A doll is a figurine of a human being. The word was first used for the child's toy about 1700, possibly as a contraction of Greek eidolon ("idol"), but more probably from the girl's name "Doll,"...

  • Quoits

    Quoits is a game somewhat resembling the throwing of the discus among the ancients; only the discus was flat, while the quoit is ring-shaped. The quoits are made of metal, usually iron, and are comparatively thick at...

  • Kinds of Nails and Their Uses

    Nails, used since ancient times, are still the fasteners most commonly used for joining wood, especially in building wood-frame houses. More than 60,000 nails may be used in a five-room house.


No comments yet.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.

    Click to Rate This Article