Air breaks are incorporated into hyperbaric treatments to help reduce the risk of central nervous system oxygen toxicity. Tolerance of oxygen is variable among patients, so it is an individualized medical decision whether or not air breaks are indicated. The hyperbaric physician orders the frequency and duration of air breaks. An unplanned air break may also be given if the patient exhibits signs of oxygen toxicity (e.g. twitching, visual disturbances, or auditory disturbances). When air breaks are ordered, it is the chamber operator’s (technician or nurse) responsibility to ensure the equipment is set up and working properly. This article discusses the technical issues involved in delivering air breaks.
A monoplace chamber is typically compressed with oxygen, allowing the patient to receive hyperbaric oxygen without a breathing device. In order to administer air breaks, an entire air break assembly must be added to the monoplace chamber. The air break assembly consists of a medical air source, regulator or flow meter, hoses, and a breathing device. The device may be a constant flow mask, demand mask, or demand mouthpiece. There is typically a specific penetrator on the monoplace chamber to allow the air break gas supply through the chamber wall. Air break assemblies can be divided into two categories: demand and constant flow. The two operate differently and have different requirements in order to work properly.
At the completion of this article, the reader will be able to:
- Identify the pressure requirement for a demand air break assembly
- Calculate the flowmeter error in a constant flow air break assembly
- Identify the flow requirement for an air break with a non-rebreather mask
Continuing Education[Nurse] 1.0 contact hours. Provider approved by the California Board of Nursing. Provider number CEP17094. [CHT] This program has been reviewed and is acceptable for 1.0 Category A credit hour by the National Board of Diving and Hyperbaric Medical Technology.
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