"At Iqarus our first priority is saving lives. Our teams apply years of North Sea experience to focus on the well-being of all our patients." Dr. Stuart Scott, Clinical Director, Offshore Occupational Health, Iqarus.

Background

What happened? A Diving Support Vessel (DSV) was operating in the East Shetland basin replacing a major pump on the sea bed adjacent to an offshore installation at a depth of 140 meters.

Divers living in the saturation chambers on the DSV were travelling to the sea bed in a diving bell.

One diver, on his first saturation dive, developed a rare complication, burst lung in this case resulting in a pneumomediastinum, where breathing gas had leaked from his lung into the area around his heart and into his neck.

Challenges

  • Working in an offshore environment not only tests both the mental and physical stamina of employees but also the ability of support personnel to function under extremely harsh working conditions.
  • The diver’s condition was life-threatening as the expanding gas could potentially have put pressure on the heart and other structures in the chest and neck. This was of particular concern given that it takes several days of decompression to bring a diver back to the surface.. There was also a risk that the affected lung might collapse.

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  • In a not so ideal environment, the Iqarus team had to maintain patient stability while working under water and, at the same time, ensuring that the best medical care was offered to save the life of the patient.

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Solutions

  • The Iqarus team mobilised a diving doctor, able to work in the chamber at pressure, to the DSV with the recommended Diving Medical Advisory Committee (DMAC) equipment
  • With support from one of our diving medical specialists onshore, this doctor advised the DSV on the care of the diver and conduct of the decompression, ensuring that the diver was brought back safely to the surface with minimal delay and no adverse effects.

Outcome

  • This type of complication has occurred twice before in the North Sea: once with a fatal outcome and once where the decompression was protracted over several weeks.
  • The speedy and effective medical support of the diving medical team ensured that the diver remained stable and was brought back onshore alive.

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  • In subsequent investigation of the diver and the incident, no underlying cause of the problem was identified. Unfortunately this ended the divers career as a saturation diver.

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