What is hyperbaric medicine?
Diving and hyperbaric medicine are closely related fields, where the aim is to derive therapeutic benefit from the respiration of gases, usually oxygen, at pressures greater than one atmosphere (1ATA).
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves the intermittent inhalation of 100% oxygen under pressure. The treatment is conducted in a pressure containment vessel - variously called a hyperbaric, recompression or decompression chamber.
These chambers come in many shapes and sizes, but can broadly be classified into two main groups - monoplace, which is suitable for a single patient and multiplace, in which various numbers of patients can be treated depending upon the size of the chamber.
Some monoplace chambers are also able to accept ventilated intensive care patients.
Therapeutic benefit may result from the mechanical effects of increased pressure directly, or by the physiological effects of improved oxygenation. Harmful side-effects may also arise from these two mechanisms. A more detailed summary can be found in | Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine (19th Ed, Chapter e52) or on the | UHMS website, or visit the Links page for other sites.