Hyperbaric Chamber Safety

January 09, 2017


Question & Answer with Cesar Solis

Certified Hyperbaric Safety Technologist and Officer 

I understand you work with hyperbaric chambers; can you describe what a hyperbaric chamber is and what it is used for?

A hyperbaric chamber is a pressurized vessel that can be compressed and can take patients into a greater than sea level atmospheric pressure with oxygen to heal any non-perfusing wounds or wounds that don’t heal.Hyperbaric chambers were originally invented to treat decompression sickness.

What type of patients do you see?
We see all different types of patients and follow specific Medicare guidelines to treat all indications, including diabetic wounds, gas gangrene, necrotizing fasciitis, crush injury, compartment syndrome as well as patients who have received post-radiation injuries, compromised flaps and graphs, patients with bone infections (osteomyelitis) and decompression sickness.

How long is the treatment?

 Patients stay inside the chamber anywhere from 106 to 120 minutes, depending on their diagnosis. Patients who have had radiation injuries stay inside for 120 minutes at 2.4 atmospheres. All other types of wound healing patients are usually treated for 90 minutes at two atmospheres. So it really depends on the patient’s diagnosis.

What do you do in your role?

As Safety Director my main role is patient safety and chamber operations. I also make the necessary recommendations for the department’s safety policies and incorporate new safety procedures. I maintain competencies, continuing education and certifications as appropriate. If the chambers are not working properly, I am the one, along side the Medical Director, who cancels the treatment or makes sure that the chamber will not be in operation that day.

How do you evaluate the patient before using the chamber?

Before the patients come in, they have already received a wound consult and evaluation. Once they come to us, I show patients what the chamber is all about. I explain to them what they are going to experience. I used to work inside a big multiplace chamber (a chamber that can house several people at a time) so I know what it feels like to be inside of one.

So you coach patients on what to expect?
I tell patients what they will experience – it's the same sensation as when scuba diving but without the water. If they haven’t done that, I tell them they will feel pressure like when ascending in an airplane (pressure in their ears, etc.). If they can’t equalize once inside the chamber, we coach them through that process as well. I tell them to pinch their nose, yawn or drink some water. In these monoplace chambers (chambers designed for one person), the individual must lay down the whole time. They can go to sleep, watch TV or see a movie from our selection. The actual procedure is painless.

What type of experience do you have?
I have extensive experience in hyperbaric medicine. I have been practicing hyperbarics since 2005 and am very lucky to have been trained by individuals with 20-30 years of hyperbaric experience. I have taken different hyperbaric courses too – one for diving medicine, another for hyperbaric medicine and wound care and most recently, a course to become a Hyperbaric Safety Director.

What so you enjoy most about your job?

 What I love most about my job is that it’s very different. There are only a few facilities that have these chambers. And the fact that I have seen patients come in with very bad wounds and infections and then seen them get to the point that they are completely healed is just amazing – saving limbs, and therefore, saving lives. Furthermore, seeing patients with decompression sickness and the outcomes they have after these treatments is just incredible.