Introduction: Diving rebreathers use canisters containing soda lime to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from expired gas. Soda lime has a finite ability to absorb CO₂. Temperature sticks monitor the exothermic reaction between CO₂ and soda lime to predict remaining absorptive capacity. The accuracy of these predictions was investigated in two rebreathers that utilise temperature sticks.
Methods: Inspiration and rEvo rebreathers filled with new soda lime were immersed in water at 19°C and operated on mechanical circuits whose ventilation and CO₂-addition parameters simulated dives involving either moderate exercise (6 MET) throughout (mod-ex), or 90 minutes of 6 MET exercise followed by 2 MET exercise (low-ex) until breakthrough (inspired PCO₂ [PiCO₂] = 1 kPa). Simulated dives were conducted at surface pressure (sea-level) (low-ex: Inspiration, n = 5; rEvo, n = 5; mod-ex: Inspiration, n = 7, rEvo, n = 5) and at 3-6 metres' sea water (msw) depth (mod-ex protocol only: Inspiration, n = 8; rEvo, n = 5).
Results: Operated at surface pressure, both rebreathers warned appropriately in four of five low-ex tests but failed to do so in the 12 mod-ex tests. At 3-6 msw depth, warnings preceded breakthrough in 11 of 13 mod-ex tests. The rEvo warned conservatively in all five tests (approximately 60 minutes prior). Inspiration warnings immediately preceded breakthrough in six of eight tests, but were marginally late in one test and 13 minutes late in another.
Conclusion: When operated at even shallow depth, temperature sticks provided timely warning of significant CO₂ breakthrough in the scenarios examined. They are much less accurate during simulated exercise at surface pressure.
Keywords: Equipment; Hypercapnia; Monitoring; Soda lime; Technical diving.
Copyright: This article is the copyright of the authors who grant Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine a non-exclusive licence to publish the article in electronic and other forms.