Positive air pressure chamber started with patients quickly after surgery

When University of California of San Diego researcher Adnan Cutuk steps on the treadmill in the lower body pressure chamber in UCSD's Orthopaedic Surgery lab, he feels as if he's in a news reel of astronauts walking on the moon, feet barely touching the ground, freed of gravitational pull. The Orthopaedics Surgery resident weighs 240 pounds, but the scale on the treadmill only senses 40 of them, thanks to the buoyancy created by the chamber's positive air pressure. Moon's gravity is one-sixth of Earth's gravity.

UCSD Orthopaedics Surgery professor Alan Hargens, co-inventor of the chamber during his days at NASA, believes the unique pressure chamber will allow patients who have lower-extremity orthopaedic surgery to begin upright, normal gait rehabilitation very early post-surgically, something not usually possible in standard rehabilitation protocols using swimming pools, parallel bars, or walking devices.

Dr. Cutuk described the pressure chamber and a study determining its safety Sunday, April 3, at Experimental Biology 2005 in San Diego. His presentation was part of the scientific sessions of The American Physiological Society and the International Union of Physiological Sciences 2005 Congress.

Patients step into a see-through Plexiglas box, tighten a Neoprene sleeve around their waists to create an airtight seal, much as a kayaker adjusts the waterproof sleeve at the top of the kayak, and wait while researchers adjust the air pressure precisely according to how much lower body weight they want the patient to experience. Air pressure is changed by adding air in (positive air pressure) or releasing it out (negative air pressure), using the exhaust port of a common vacuum cleaner. It's possible to adjust the positive air pressure to provide so much buoyancy that weight-bearing on the treadmill is only 5 or 10 percent of the patient's actual weight or, in the case of the lightest patients, the sensation that they are actually floating over

Contact: Sarah Goodwin
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

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