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Website home>Newsletters>August 2003>Diver Safety in Phuket

Phuket Diving Newsletter

Decompression Sickness and Chambers

Statistics from the US National Safety Council state that the injury rate among divers is 4 per 10,000. While that may not sound much, it is enough for divers to take dive safety seriously. One of the foremost worries for divers is that of decompression sickness (DCS) or decompression illness (DCI). If you suffer from DCI, then you'll have to check into a recompression chamber.

The best way to avoid decompression sickness is to dive as safely as possible. This means the following:

  • don't dive too deep, stay within the no-decompression limits;
  • don't ascend too fast - Slowly Ascend From Every Dive;
  • be especially careful when doing multiple dives;
  • drink a lot of water to avoid dehydration, especially in the tropical heat of Southeast Asia

As for recognising when you have decompression sickness, look for the following signs and symptoms: blotchy skin, weakness, coughing spasms, shortness of breath, altered mental status, pain, extreme fatigue, nausea, restlessness, numbness, dizziness, personality change, paralysis, reflex changes, bladder problems.

If you have all of them, you're in serious trouble! But chances are, you'll have a selection of them if you're suffering from DCI.

Southern Thailand now has 3 recompression chambers - 2 on Phuket Island, and another on Koh Samui - to treat DCI. 2 are managed by the Hyperbaric Services of Thailand (HST), part of the Sub-aquatic Safety Services (SSS) international recompression chamber network based in Texas (USA). The network currently links 11 chambers worldwide. Standards and procedures, maintenance, upgrades, training and staffing levels are all governed by SSS policy.

The Phuket Town Facility
The Phuket dive chamber is a multi place twin lock system with large rectangular doors to facilitate the entry of patients in wheelchairs or on stretchers. It has a depth rating of 50 msw and the provision for air recompression using hyperbaric oxygen or mixed gas therapy for 2-3 patients. The medical lock is large enough to supply all needs during treatment without using the entry lock. A pressurised fire deluge system has been fitted to the main lock to cover the unlikely possibility of a fire in the chamber.

The Samui Facility
The Samui chamber is a multi place twin lock system with large circular doors to facilitate the entry of patients. It has a depth rating of 50 msw and the provision for air recompression using hyperbaric oxygen or mixed gas therapy for 1 patient.

Facility Standards

Environmental monitoring is done by a Teledyne oxygen analyser, digital temperature indicators and highly accurate precision analogue depth gauges. Communication is via a twin lock voice chamber communicator and a closed circuit video monitor as well as air phones. Lighting is by cold light tubes which allows for even illumination while keeping the electrical source out of the chamber.

Source: Hyperbaric Services of Thailand (HST), providers of decompression and arterial gas embolism (DCI) Injury and assistance facilities for Phuket diving and Koh Samui, southern Thailand


Phuket Town (Andaman Sea): 44/1 Moo 5, Chalermprakiat Ror 9 Road, Vichit, Muang, 83000 Phuket.
Phone: +66 (0)810 819000, Fax +66 (0)76 612660
Koh Samui (Gulf of Thailand): 34/8 Moo 4 Bophut, Koh Samui, 84320 Surat Thani.
Phone: 0810 819555, Fax: 077 427377
Khao Lak: phone 0810 819444
Koh Tao: phone 0810 819777
Krabi: phone 0810 819222

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