Jeopardy! category: OXYGEN (30-6-2015)
$2000 Daily Double! clue: Because the pressure lets the body absorb more oxygen, these decompression chambers can help blue babies
The gist: Commonly used in diving mishaps, but I hope those babies didn’t end up there after a scuba emergency. Hyperbaric chambers, from the Greek for “over pressure,” are just what they sound like: chambers in which the air pressure is artificially increased, so that there’s more air (in terms of mass) per volume inside than there is outside. In medical uses, the air that’s compressed in the chamber is usually pure oxygen. The most well-known use of hyperbaric chambers in medicine is to treat decompression sickness, commonly called “the bends.” The bends occurs when a diver has remained in deep water – and therefore deep pressure – for long enough that dissolved gas molecules, mostly nitrogen, “undissolve” out of fluids and form gas bubbles. At high pressure, these bubbles are kept small enough to not cause problems, and if a diver resurfaces at a proper speed, the lungs are able to gradually put the gas back in its normal dissolved state. If a diver resurfaces too quickly, however, the gas bubbles instead expand as pressure decreases. The expanding bubbles can cause a host of problems, the most serious being blocked blood vessels that can lead to potentially fatal heart attacks and strokes. In order to prevent this from happening, a victim of the bends is placed as quickly as possible in a hyperbaric chamber, where the high pressure again reduces the size of the air bubbles that have formed. As the patient breathes he pure oxygen, the lungs have time to get rid of the gas bubbles and the body is refilled with oxygen. While the bends was the earliest condition for which hyperbaric oxygen therapy was found to be effective, since then it has been found to help with many other conditions.
I actually couldn’t find anything online from any reputable-seeming sources about hyperbaric oxygen therapy for blue babies (a term for babies with certain heart defects that cause their skin to take on a bluish tinge), so I’m not touching that with a ten-foot pole. I’m no doctor.
The clue: This one’s also sort of confusingly worded – hyperbaric chambers are often also called simply “decompression chambers,” so the fact that the clue uses that phrase might throw some contestants off. But the real hint in this clue is just the word “pressure” – if you’re familiar with the concept of a hyperbaric chamber, that should be enough to get you to the right response.
In Jeopardy!: Hyperbaric chambers appear in just six clues in the J!Archive. Four of them have something to do with deep-sea diving, and three mention decompression. That’s really all there is to this this topic – just remember that a decompression chamber and a hyperbaric chamber are the same thing.