Portable Operating Theaters – Operating Bubbles

By: | January 4th, 2013

Hypobaric Chambers, also referred to as altitude chambers, are secure, bacteria-free chambers used to measure the effects of high and low altitude or low oxygen on the human body. The chambers are usually used by pilots, to train for different altitudes, but have recently turned up a variety of new uses and procedures.

Typically, the chambers are used to determine what a person’s hypoxia symptoms are. Hypoxia is the measure of how much oxygen is being deprived of the body. However, these chambers have potentially life-saving uses as temporary operating theaters both in the air or in areas of conflict where the wounded need quick, but still safe and sterile, procedures. In warzones, particularly of late in places like Syria, clean and safe treatment is not available but the providing of these chambers, or “operating bubbles”, can offer a temporary, portable solution for the wounded in need of care until they can reach more comprehensive treatment.

The “bubble” is airtight allowing for filtered air to be let inside while performing surgery, which will not compromise the safety of the procedure. It’s important to note that such a use of altitude chamber is a stopgap on the way to proper medical care, if possible. So far, the method has been utilized by Naval Operational Medicine Institute.

Jonathan Keane

Irish journalist writing on business, tech and engineering.


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