Based in Aberdeen, Scotland, the Hyperbaric Medicine Unit provides recompression treatment for decompression illness (DCI) and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) osteoradionecrosis, soft tissue radiation injury and other wounds and infections.
The Hyperbaric Medicine Unit is based at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary (ARI) and is located in the National Hyperbaric Centre (NHC). The Unit is funded by the National Services Division of NHS Scotland to provide medical treatment and advice for diving related illness. The Unit also provides treatment for other conditions that have been shown to respond well to Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy.
There are four classifications of chamber used by the British Hyperbaric Association (BHA). Our Unit is classed as the highest, category 1 – the only one in Scotland capable of providing intensive care support in a hyperbaric environment.
The Unit has access to the hospital’s on-site helipad for reception of casualties from distant locations either directly from the scene via coastguard, navy or airforce rescue helicopter or from another facility. Patients may also arrive by fixed-wing aircraft at Aberdeen airport.
Medical, nursing and technical staff are on call 24 hours per day. The nurses who cover routine treatments and emergency cases at the Unit are based in the Intensive Therapy Unit of ARI and have all undergone training in hyperbaric nursing in addition to existing critical care training. We also support diving related NHS cases treated elsewhere in Scotland, with the consultants providing medical advice.
The Hyperbaric Chamber
The Unit’s chamber is maintained by the National Hyperbaric Centre who also provide support staff to enable the Unit’s chamber to operate 24 hours per day. The chamber is 7.8m long, 2.2m in diameter, 30.4m³ in volume and is rated to a working depth of 300msw (31ata). There are two fixed bunks and a moveable Stryker trolley as used in some Accident and Emergency departments. A respiratory ventilator, suction apparatus and electronic monitoring equipment enable the chamber to be used for the treatment of critically ill patients.
There is also full critical care equipment available including a cardiac defibrillator and emergency drugs. The chamber is linked to several others operated by the NHC, which can be used to treat multiple casualties. The entry lock in our chamber allows equipment and additional personnel to be compressed to the working depth as required. Small items, food, drugs or samples can be passed in or out through a small medical lock.