Introduction: High concentration normobaric oxygen (O₂) is a priority in treating divers with suspected decompression illness. The effect of different O₂ mask configurations on tissue oxygenation when breathing with a demand valve was evaluated.
Methods: Sixteen divers had tissue oxygen partial pressure (PtcO₂) measured at six limb sites. Participants breathed O₂ from a demand valve using: an intraoral mask (IOM®) with and without a nose clip (NC), a pocket face mask and an oronasal mask. In-line inspired O₂ (FIO₂) and nasopharyngeal FIO₂ were measured. Participants provided subjective ratings of mask comfort, ease of breathing and holding in position.
Results: PtcO₂ values and nasopharyngeal FIO₂ (median and range) were greatest using the IOM with NC and similar with the IOM without NC. O₂ measurements were lowest with the oronasal mask which also was rated as the most difficult to breathe from and to hold in position. The pocket face mask was reported as the most comfortable to wear. The NC was widely described as uncomfortable. The IOM and pocket face mask were rated best for ease of breathing. The IOM was rated as the easiest to hold in position.
Conclusion: Of the commonly available O₂ masks for use with a demand valve, the IOM with NC achieved the highest PtcO₂ values. PtcO₂ and nasopharyngeal FIO₂ values were similar between the IOM with and without NC. Given the reported discomfort of the NC, the IOM without NC may be the best option.
Keywords: Decompression sickness; First aid; Masks; Medical kits; Oxygen; Scuba diving; Transcutaneous oximetry.
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