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Exercise and Medicine Underwater and at High Pressure


For the next week, I will be at scientific meeting of the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society (UHMS). My colleagues attending are flight surgeons, SEAL team captains, commercial divers, submersible and submarine craft personnel from navies of many countries, and scientists from all over the world who study the science of what happens to the body when working under different pressures, temperatures, and breathing gases - at altitude, underwater, and in the specialized dry compartments to build bridges and structures deep underwater. There are also physicians, technicians, nurses, and aerospace scientists and astronauts who use hyperbaric chamber technology to prevent or treat specific non-diving conditions. Allied health workers, divers, and non-divers also attend.

Originally, we were the Undersea Medical Society (UMS). As use of high-pressure oxygen chambers to treat illnesses other than diving climbed, more sessions on how hyperbaric oxygen works (and doesn't work) were added. Wound healing increased in focus. In 1986, we became the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society (UHMS). Forums, sometimes strangely heated for brainy, cool-headed scientists, are held about which conditions legitimately respond to hyperbaric oxygen treatment and which are felt not to have evidence (no matter how much we wish it would work and alleviate the suffering of the patients).

Some of the established benefits of hyperbaric oxygen and some uses that are not shown to be effective are explained in the post and comments of Does Hyperbaric Oxygen Help Exercise Ability?

The meeting will cover many interesting topics in decompression bubbles that are thought to cause (or be part of) decompression sickness, or "the bends," and mathematical and empirical models of decompression. Decompression theory and bubbles were my research area for many years along with the effects of too much oxygen on the body during exercise underwater and in dry habitats underwater. The meeting will have many sessions in clinical hyperbaric oxygen therapy for several specific conditions (abbreviated HBO, HBOT, HB02 and other), chamber equipment, and wound treatment. There will be a session of The Veterinary Hyperbaric Medicine Society. Animals get problem wounds that need help healing, too.

The national board exam for hyperbaric chamber nurse and technician will be administered. There is also a board exam for physicians in hyperbaric medicine held each fall through the American Board of Preventive Medicine & Emergency Medicine. I wrote the study guides for both exams. I tried to make them fun, user-friendly, and packed with understanding, not just lists of facts and equations to memorize. The guides cover the entire contents of both areas and are a nice review or compendium for anyone interested I the field. Info is on my web site books page.

I won't be staying at the fancy conference hotel but at a backpacker's hostel. Over the next week, I will try to get to Internet cafes to post on some of the interesting topics and research at the meeting - and swim and go underwater for real. That is good for a researcher in underwater exercise and medicine to do.

Here is the next post from the conference Hyperbarics for Diabetic Foot Injury.

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About the Author


Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.