The word hyperbaric comes from "hyper" (meaning "over, above, more than normal") and "baric" (meaning "of weight or pressure"). During a treatment, the chamber is compressed to pressures as great as 165 feet of seawater (fsw) by sealing its doors and pumping in high-pressure air. The patient then breathes gas containing a high percent of oxygen (50% oxygen at 165 fsw, or 100% oxygen at 60 fsw and shallower) through a mask. The combination of high pressure and increased oxygen levels have achieved astounding results. On occasion, a diver in full arrest can, upon reaching a critical pressure in the chamber, regain a pulse.
At 25 feet long and 9 feet in diameter, the USC Catalina Hyperbaric Chamber is a relatively large hyperbaric chamber. The size of the Chamber allows the possibility of treating multiple patients simultaneously (to date, the maximum number of patients treated simultaneously is four) and allows room to perform CPR and Advanced Life Support for patients who arrive in cardiac arrest. The Chamber has two locks, which allows the movement of people (physicians, new patients, Chamber Crew, etc.) in and out of the Main Treatment Lock without reducing the pressure.
The USC Catalina Hyperbaric Chamber is staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days year, by a rotating volunteer crew. Our Crew, coming from around the U.S., is a diverse group dedicated to helping improve dive safety. Membership as a crew member is available to anyone with a desire to be of service to the dive community. For a treatment the four person team preps the Chamber and then follows the hyperbaric treatment protocol prescribed by the physician. One of the volunteers (the Tender) will be in the Chamber with the patient throughout the treatment, the Operator will operate the valves and "drive" the Chamber, the Recorder times the events and notes the progress of the treatment, and the Supervisor oversees the Crew and coordinates with the other agencies and personnel who respond to the diving accident and treatment.
Treatments at the Chamber are overseen by physicians trained in hyperbaric medicine from the L.A. County/USC Medical Center Department of Emergency Medicine. They direct the LA County Baywatch Isthmus Paramedics in the initial emergency medical care required by the patients and can give orders over the phone to begin hyperbaric treatment. The paramedics remain on scene until a physician arrives on scene to take over the case. The Chamber Crew and physicians work closely with the Los Angeles County Medical Alert Center (MAC) for coordination of information and transportation.
Funding for the Chamber comes from an annual contract with L.A. County (~50%) and donations from generous contributors, dive clubs, dive boat operators, and fund raising activities (such as Chamber Day and the Avalon Underwater Clean-Up).
Chamber Technical Drawing (right click to view larger image)