Members from SSAC visited the Hyperbaric Medicine Unit (HMU) at St Richard's Hospital, Chichester on 16 April 2014. Dr Mark Glover and Nurse Sara Hasan hosted the visit with a presentation on the causes and treatments of DCI followed by a tour around the chamber which included details of the operation of the chamber. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is the delivery of oxygen at greater than atmospheric pressure and is used to treat decompression illness but the HMU is also used to help people with a range of conditions ranging from carbon monoxide poisoning to thermal burns.
The Type A recompression chamber has been modified with an arched doorway into the main chamber to make access easier for patients. There are two compartments – the 19m³ main chamber where patients are treated and a 7m³ 'man lock' to enable staff to move in and out without decompressing the main chamber part way through a treatment. It can accommodate either two lying down, for divers suffering from a DCI, or up to five people sitting for patients needing recompression treatment for other injuries. Its maximum pressure setting is 8.5 bar – equivalent to a depth of 85 metres at sea although recompression treatment for DCI usually starts at an equivalent depth of 18m.
The visit was very worthwhile and divers left confident of what would happen in the event of a DCI incident, with a greater understanding of DCI. It was stressed that divers must seek early advice in the event of suspected DCI and particularly listen to their partners who may well be more aware that something is not quite right following a dive.
Those visiting the chamber found it both an interesting and enjoyable evening. If you have never visited a chamber before it is recommended to visit one whenever an opportunity arises.