Arterial gas embolism treatment Brisbane

How hyperbaric oxygen therapy can help with arterial gas embolisms
Arterial gas embolism treatment Brisbane

HBOT, or hyperbaric oxygen therapy, is the primary treatment for arterial gas embolism, a dangerous medical condition caused by gas bubbles entering the arterial circulation. 

Arterial gas embolism cause

What is an arterial gas embolism?

As a diver, you need to be cautious when you surface, as surfacing too quickly or holding your breath can cause the air in your lungs to expand. This may rupture lung tissue which can lead to gas bubbles in the arterial circulation. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is the primary treatment option for an arterial gas embolism. 

Arterial gas embolisms are dangerous because the gas bubbles may limit blood flow and provoke a large inflammatory reaction. For example, if the blood flow to the heart is limited, this may cause a heart attack.

Arterial gas embolism symptoms

When a diver loses consciousness shortly after surfacing, you always should assume they have an arterial gas embolism. Not everyone loses consciousness though, so be aware of other symptoms such as: 

  • joint or muscle pain
  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath and fast breathing
  • stroke-like symptoms
  • confusion
  • convulsions
  • blurred vision

These symptoms may not be present straight after a dive. They can develop ten to twenty minutes after surfacing. Do not ignore these symptoms and call 000 to get immediate treatment.

Dr Susannah Sherlock

A diver with a suspected arterial gas embolism should be given 100% oxygen in the ambulance. Once stabilised in the emergency room, they need to be taken to the hyperbaric chamber immediately.

Dr Susannah Sherlock
Medical Director at Wesley Hyperbaric

Although very rare, it’s possible to get an arterial gas embolism during surgery, or some medical procedures, and when ascending to a high altitude. 

Arterial gas embolism treatment Brisbane

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for arterial gas embolisms

Arterial gas embolism treatment Brisbane
hyperbaric chamber Brisbane

As a diver with a suspected arterial gas embolism you will first receive emergency attention and straight after you’ll be transferred to the hyperbaric chamber. As you are breathing in 100% oxygen at a higher pressure, this will reduce the size of the air bubbles and improve the blood flow, preventing further damage. 

The treatment will take several hours because we need to mimic a slow diving ascent.

The initial treatment varies in length from 5 to 7 ½ hours at pressures of 2.8 – 4.0 atmospheres. Sometimes, helium/oxygen mixtures are used as the treatment gas. 

Dr Susannah Sherlock
Medical Director at Wesley Hyperbaric

Depending on the severity and your response to the treatment, you may require 1 to 5 treatments after the initial session. 

If treated in a timely fashion, you will fully recover. Whether you can dive again will depend on a range of factors that you’ll discuss with our hyperbaric physicians.

Your journey starts with these 3 steps

Step 1
Once you have your referral from your GP or specialist, contact our Brisbane clinic to book a consultation with one of our doctors.
Step 2
If you are eligible for HBOT, your treatment plan is scheduled and your HBOT journey can start.
Step 3

When you have completed your hyperbaric sessions, your condition is reassessed by one of our doctors.