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Hyperbaric Chambers Have An Atmosphere All of Their Own

Updated on October 10, 2011

A hyperbaric chamber may sound like a medieval instrument of torture but it is actually an amazing example of man's ingenuity and scientific advancement. A hyperbaric chamber is in fact an alternative world in miniature because it is a self contained alternative atmosphere used in medical circles for hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Within the hard shell of the chamber the gas (because it isn't air) pressure can be adjusted to as high a level as six bars.

The maritime services, diving organizations, and medical facilities specializing in recompression would all have their own hyperbaric chambers installed. They vary greatly in size from small one-patient portable units to permanent eight person installations. Modern lightweight construction materials have enabled 'soft' hyperbaric chambers that can achieve up to half a bar and go where needed. Thereby avoiding the dangers of transporting patients suffering from decompression sickness.

Decompression sickness, commonly called the 'bends', affects people who are subjected to rapid and significant changes in atmospheric pressure. The commonest circumstances under which this happens is in under water work. Such changes in pressure causes the rapid release of nitrogen from the bloodstream. Nitrogen gas-bubbles in the blood, cause respiratory difficulties, cramping pains, and severe pains in the joints and muscles. Sub aqua divers who surface too quickly suffer from these dreaded 'bends'.

The recommended dwell time in a hyperbaric chamber for efficacious recompression is forty minutes for a diver who spends an hour at a depth of thirty meters maximum. One can only imagine the sacrifice and painful experimentation that allowed hyperbaric chambers to be calibrated with such precision.

If you ever have an opportunity to tour a hyperbaric chamber take note of the following features common to all of the fixed larger type units.

· The outer shell is hard metal, usually steel or aluminium. The windows will always be acrylic and not glass.

· The entrances will be small and sealable, either rounded or with wheelchair access. They will give entry to a separate airlock area. Pressurized antechambers are vital to the operation of the chamber because they allow people, medicines, food and water to go in and out of the chamber without disturbing the artificial atmosphere inside.

· The observation ports will be transparent openings or closed circuit television .

· The voice communication devices, either-walkie talkie or intercom.

· The CO2 chemical gas filtration system. Usually a soda lime canister through which the air from inside is passed, to be cleansed and recycled.

· The control centre at the heart of which are the regulated gas control valves for opening and closing supply of oxygen to the patients inside.

Even just this brief description of hyperbaric chambers gives the idea of how scientifically advanced and amazing they are. People tend to take science for granted after a very little time, but the really stunning thing about hyperbaric chambers is the very point of them. They enable mankind to go in and out of other worlds without us dying from the side effects of atmospheric change.


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