Watch Now: Hyperbaric Treatment for Decompression Sickness

Recreational scuba diving attracts up to 4 million people in the U.S. each year, according to federal data. Injuries from diving are rare, but there are a variety of health issues and conditions that divers can encounter, medical experts say.

Potential hazards include decompression sickness or “the bends,” which is caused by a build up of nitrogen bubbles in the blood and tissues following a sudden drop in the surrounding pressure, as when a diver rapidly surfaces from a dive. The condition can result in severe pain in the joints and chest, skin irritation, cramps and even paralysis.

Nationally, about 1,000 scuba divers experience decompression sickness each year, according to the Divers Alert Network.

Locally, about 30 to 35 divers a year run into trouble and require immediate treatment for decompression sickness at Mariners Hospital in Tavernier. Mariners is home to the only hospital-based hyperbaric chamber in the Florida Keys.

In a hyperbaric oxygen-therapy room, the air pressure is raised up to three times higher than normal, a process that allows the patients to receive 20 to 25 times the amount of oxygen they would otherwise receive on the surface. This process is healing because it reduces the gas bubbles in the bloodstream and reduces swelling. What’s more, additional oxygen is delivered to injured or compromised tissues in the body.

The Baptist Health News Team visited with the Hyperbaric Medicine Department at Mariners Hospital. Watch now.


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