British divers first to be treated at HPA’s hyperbaric chamber

The Hospital Particular do Algarve’s (HPA) new hyperbaric chamber was used for the first time on Monday (September 14) to treat two British victims of decompression sickness.

The dive guides, aged 22 and 26, were leading a dive at Alvor’s underwater park Ocean Revival when they noticed that other divers were straying from the set path.

Trying to get them back, one of the guides ran out of air in his bottle, leading them both to swim back to the surface too fast.

“One of them had headaches, while the other had trouble breathing and pain in his elbows and knees. These are symptoms of gas embolism. They came up to the surface faster than they should have. Luckily, it wasn’t too serious,” HPA doctor Lígia Pires told Barlavento newspaper.

Their treatment was conducted at the HPA’s new €1 million hyperbaric chamber in Alvor, which in June made HPA the first private health group in Portugal to offer hyperbaric treatments.
“We put them in the chamber, increase the pressure as if they were still underwater, and then simulate them gradually returning to surface,” Dr Pires explained, adding that both divers have recovered well and been released from hospital.

The doctor explained that the only alternative to HPA’s chamber is in Lisbon, but that in these situations, time is of the essence.

“The faster the treatment, the less likely it (decompression) is to cause consequences in the future,” she explained, adding that taking a patient to Lisbon in a helicopter won’t help due to the pressure of the flight’s altitude.

“People should be informed and know that they can use this service in Alvor if there is another accident in the future,” the doctor said.

First hyperbaric medicine conference

Just two days earlier (September 12), over 100 people had attended the Algarve’s first hyperbaric medicine conference, which took place at the Hospital Particular de Alvor.

Featuring a panel of national specialists, the conference addressed a number of topics including “physiology, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, the importance of hyperbaric medicine in a health tourism context as well as its relevance as far as diving and decompression sickness are concerned”.