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Hyperbaric chambers are used in the treatment of hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which is the use of oxygen for medical purposes at pressures higher than the regular level of atmospheric pressure.
Originally, hyperbaric chambers were hard shelled pressure vessels that could produce pressures of up to 87 psi above atmospheric pressure. They were typically used by the navy, hospitals and diving organizations. Their sizes ranged from one-patient (mono-place), multiple patients (multi-place), and portable units to larger units that worked faster and could treat eight or more patients at a time. Recent advances in the technology of materials have enabled soft chambers to be manufactured that are portable and operate between 4.4 and 7.3 psi above atmospheric pressure. Hard and soft chambers differ in their use and safety and are not considered to be equivalent vessels. Today's Commercial Hyperbaric Chambers utilize the most recent advances in technology and provide businesses with an efficient way of providing treatment to patients.
Mono-place Hyperbaric Chambers are typically constructed of aluminum or steel with the windows, known as view ports, made of acrylic. There may be space for more than one person at a time with spaces designed for patients on wheelchairs or gurneys. These type of chambers are perfect for schools athletic departments, gyms, training facilities, and doctors offices. Entry to the hyperbaric chambers is made possible by a separate chamber with two hatches, one which provides access to the inside and the other which provides access to the main chamber. This allows the two hatches to be pressurized individually so that a person can enter or exit the main chamber while it is still under high pressure. Hard hyperbaric chambers also contain nice features like a close-circuit television so that the patient inside can be monitored by the medical staff outside the chamber as well as an intercom that facilitates two-way conversation between the medical staff outside and the patient inside. There is also a control panel outside the chamber that enables air flow to be controlled in and out of the chamber and oxygen to helmet masks to be regulated.
Portable Hyperbaric Chambers are usually made of a flexible acrylic fabric which is bonded with nylon and coated in urethane and constructed with technology using steel welds. The opening is sealed with a double zipper of full length and the control of oxygen is made possible by feeding it into the chamber through a small mask with expired gas circulated toward the end of the chamber and out through the pressure regulators. These chambers are usually for home-use, however they are all commercial grade and meant to be used day in and day out. Portable Hyperbarics are the most popular with athletes in mind, as they take up minimal space and can even be broken down when not in use and stored in closets. We have some athletes that even ship their portable chambers to their hotel rooms, so they can use when on the road.
Many of the Multi-Place Hyperbaric Chambers currently in use provide space for both the patient and the medical staff inside the chamber. Both breathe oxygen by means of oxygen masks which supply pure oxygen with the exhaled gas directly exhausted from the chamber to prevent the build-up of oxygen which could cause a fire. While undergoing treatment, patients breathe 100% oxygen to gain maximum benefit of their treatment with breaks for breathing room air which is 21% oxygen in order to prevent the occurrence of oxygen toxicity. The medical staff also breathes oxygen in order to reduce their risk of decompression sickness.
Sometimes smaller mono-place hyperbaric chambers are used that house only the patient. These chambers can be pressurized with pure oxygen so that an oxygen breathing mask or helmet is not needed. Patients are given masks for their air breaks which provide periods of breathing normal air so as to reduce the risk of hyperopic seizures. Both single and dual-space hyperbaric chambers are equally effective in providing hyperbaric oxygen therapy.