Woman, Horse Dead after Hyperbaric Chamber Explosion
February 10 2012, Article # 19591
While Florida fire authorities probe the cause of a hyperbaric oxygen chamber
explosion that killed one horse and one woman and injured another woman, an
equine veterinarian who founded a hyberbaric-oxygen-therapy-focused veterinary
society said practitioners strive to minimize risk associated with the
According to published reports, on Feb. 10, a hyperbaric oxygen chamber
exploded at the Kentucky Equine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Center
(KESMARC) in Ocala, Fla., when a horse inside the chamber began kicking. The
horse and a woman were killed in the incident. Another woman sustained
injuries, the reports said. Marion County, Fla., fire rescue officials are
investigating the cause of the incident. A representative from KESMARC Florida
was unavailable for comment.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT)
involves treating a patient
with 100% oxygen under pressure; veterinarians have explained the process
increases oxygen levels in blood plasma and promotes higher delivery to all
body tissues, including the injured area, to facilitate healing. In horses HBOT
is used to treat a range of conditions and acute injuries, including deep
wounds, joint injuries, and infections. Horses treated with HBOT are placed in
chambers that are approximately 10 to 12 feet in diameter.
Dennis Geiser, DVM, Dipl. AVBP, associate professor in the Large Animal
Clinical Sciences department at the University of Tennessee’s College of
Veterinary Medicine and founder of the Veterinary Hyperbaric Medical Society,
declined to comment specifically about the KESMARC Florida incident. But he
said that HBOT chambers used in the United States are manufactured according to
specific safety standards, and that practitioners take precautions to ensure
horses’ safety during treatment.
The cause of the explosion is unknown and currently under
Geiser said that while the oxygen itself is unlikely to ignite, oxygen
under pressure could be ignited in the presence of a spark.
“So we don’t put shod horses in the chamber,” Geiser said of his approach
to safety. “We take the shoes off if we can, or we put boots on the horse or
otherwise cover its feet.”
In addition, he said rubber material about halfway up the interior walls of
some chambers to further minimize spark risk, he said. Geiser declined to
speculate on whether the KESMARC Florida chamber contained the rubber wall
Geiser said that the majority of hyperbaric oxygen chambers are
manufactured by Veterinary Hyperbaric Oxygen, a Lexington, Ky.-based company.
No one from the firm was available to comment on the KESMARC incident.