DAN @ Duke University’s Hyperbaric Chambers


The control panel for the chambers...Beam me up Scotty!

Four a.m. flights are most definitely not anyone’s first travel choice, but I was psyched to get on my plane. Destination: Divers Alert Network, North Carolina. My host, Patty Seery, picked me up a few hours later, and we finished the commute to the DAN office! Patty gave me a quick run-down on the history of DAN, then took me around and gave me the grand tour, introducing me to all of the people that I would get to work with this week.

Hyperbaric Chamber Alpha at Duke University Medical Center

They have a really fun crowd of people, and I can’t wait to get to work with them. But, today Patty wanted to take me to the Duke University Medical Center introduce me to Mike Natoli, and show me their Hyperbaric chamber facility.

One of the chambers set-up for an exercise experiment at altitude on mice.

It’s HUGE! They have five chambers that are all interlocked together so that you could walk from one chamber to another if all the doors were open. They don’t normally keep all the doors open because they are doing many different things at once, and at different pressures. The multiple doors dividing the chambers allow for this so that medical treatments can be performed in one room of the chamber, while a completely unrelated experiment is being performed in another room.

Me and Mike in one of the chambers!

The doors are also useful when a treatment or experiment is being done for a long period of time and people need to switch off. An adjoining chamber can be pressurized to equal the experimental chamber, then the interlocking door can be opened, people can switch, transfer equipment and whatnot, then shut the door, and depressurize to normal atmospheric levels, and go on with their day. It’s a truly ingenious design.

Me, sitting at the door of one of the chambers.

I learned a lot about several of the projects that are currently being worked on, and saw a chamber in action for medical treatment. I also found out that the chambers can not only be pressurized to depth, they can also be pressurized for different altitudes, allowing for studies on events such as flying after diving to be performed.

Mike, modeling in front of the compressed air cylinders...there are more rows of cylinders behind this one!

It takes a LOT of air and machinery to pressurize these chambers! And, one of the chambers is set-up with a small pool in it. During my tour, I actually got to go inside a few of the chambers, but we didn’t pressurize any of them. It was a fantastic tour, but I hope I never need to go back for a treatment! 😉