Hypobaric Chambers and Their Uses

Hypobaric chambers are a high altitude chamber used to study the effects that high altitude has on our bodies. It is mainly used to observe and study the effects of hypoxia (low oxygen) or hypobaria (low air pressure). Certain specific chambers are also controlled for temperature and humidity.

Hypobaric chambers

How to use hypobaric chambers?

The primary use of hypobaric chamber is for the patients to understand what the symptoms of hypoxia are. To practice with it, they are placed in the chamber. Then, atmospheric pressure is reduced to up to thousands of feet. Whilst this is going on, the patients will still be wearing oxygen masks (this is done to get rid of nitrogen from the blood stream to ensure that Decompressions Sickness doesn’t occur). After the pressure in the chamber has been dropped sufficiently low, the subjects are requested to take off their mask to actively experience hypoxia.

With their masks no longer helping them breathe, subjects are asked to carry out mundane tasks. For ex: writing down numbers from 1 to a 100 or signing some papers. Once the subject starts taking an unnecessarily long amount of time to accomplish these acts or the acts are carried out quite poorly, then the period of time known as “Time Of Useful Consciousness” has passed and it is time for the subjects to avail the use of their masks again.

Other uses include acclimatizing mountain climbers in regards to extremely steep slopes. For ex: Mount Everest requires an adaptation period of about 3 to 4 weeks between 3000 and 6000m. In order to reduce the time spent in such a precarious environment, an experiment of pre-acclimatization was performed among some of the best alpinists. After looking at the results of the experiment, the alpinists came to the conclusion that the pre adaptation initiated the beginning of certain useful mechanisms that ultimately helped the climbers save around 1 to 3 weeks of climbing time.

Hypobaric chambers are also increasing in popularity as a means of improving athletic fitness. The human body’s natural response to hypoxia is to increase the amount of red blood cells in the body; inadvertently raising aerobic performance. Suffice to say that it is safe to come to the conclusion that hypobaric chambers are necessary and appreciated machines.