decompression sickness


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decompression sickness,

physiological disorder caused by a rapid decrease in atmospheric pressure, resulting in the release of nitrogen bubbles into the body tissues. It is also known as caisson disease, altitude sickness, and the bends. It is an occupational hazard of persons who work under greatly increased atmospheric pressure below the surface of the earth (e.g., divers and laborers who work under compressed air) when their return to normal atmospheric pressure is made too quickly. When the body is subjected to high atmospheric pressure the respiratory gases are compressed and larger amounts are dissolved in the body tissues. During ascent from depths greater than 30 ft (9.1 m), these gases escape as the external pressure decreases. Airplane pilots who go rapidly from normal atmospheric pressure to high altitudes (low atmospheric pressure) in unpressurized aircraft or in aircraft with faulty pressurizing apparatus also encounter the disorder. The decrease in air pressure releases body nitrogen in the form of gas bubbles that block the small veins and arteries and collect in the tissues, cutting off the oxygen supply and causing nausea, vomiting, dizziness, pain in the joints and abdomen, paralysis, and other neurological symptoms. In severe cases there may be shock, total collapse, and, if treatment is not prompt, death. Persons who work under increased atmospheric pressure must make the ascent to normal atmospheric pressure gradually, often through pressurized chambers, a procedure that allows the nitrogen to be released slowly from the blood and expired from the lungs. Inhalation of pure oxygen aids in clearing nitrogen from the body. Those who suffer symptoms of decompression sickness at high altitudes (commonly called aeroembolism) experience relief on returning to an atmospheric pressure normal to them; this and oxygen inhalation will usually effect recovery.

decompression sickness

A sickness caused by the evolution of nitrogen bubbles in the body as a result of the effects of reduced atmospheric pressure. Normal symptoms of decompression sickness are the bends, chokes, creeps, unconsciousness, and neurological symptoms. It can be potentially fatal if the original higher pressure is not restored. Fighter crews use pressure suits and pressure breathing to avoid the effects of decompression sickness. Also called aeroembolism, the bends, and caisson disease.

decompression sickness

, illness
a disorder characterized by severe pain in muscles and joints, cramp, and difficulty in breathing, caused by a sudden and sustained decrease in air pressure, resulting in the deposition of nitrogen bubbles in the tissues
References in periodicals archive ?
I got a research grant from the Fisheries Department, modified the dive profiles [risk of injury estimates] and changed the incidence of decompression sickness from over 40 percent to less than 0.01 percent.
Working outside the international space station in spacesuits elevates astronauts' risk of decompression sickness, Moon indicates, since the transition from the stations to a space suit rapidly lowers the pressure to which the astronaut is exposed by two-thirds.
"Diving is physically exhausting, and there's an increased risk of experiencing decompression sickness like that of a scuba diver," said Capt.
Decompression sickness can result in serious, permanent injuries, including paralysis and death.(1) By regulating depth, the time underwater, the rate of ascent, and the interval between dives, a diver can reduce the risk of developing the bends.
It is thought that Sarah Ann Pitkin, 45, believed to be from the West Country, died from an attack of the bends - decompression sickness.
Nitrogen poisoning presents another risk for divers who conduct frequent deep-water operations.(11) When divers surface quickly, nitrogen that has pooled in the blood bubbles out, causing decompression sickness,(12) or "the bends." Symptoms include joint pain, back or abdominal pain, paralysis, numbness, tingling, inability to control bowels or urine, headache, dizziness, partial blindness, confusion, shortness of breath, chest pains, coughing and/or shock.(13)
In an attempt to curb diving accidents, Nietschmann, marine biologist Bill Alevizon, and the Florida-based Caribbean Conservation Corporation (CCC) initiated a scuba-training course on the Miskito coast to educate divers about how to avoid air embolisms and decompression sickness, called "the bends." The CCC also offered training to local doctors in how to treat scuba-diving injuries.
Although most physicians consider this usage to be mere quackery, the machine itself is anything but useless, having proven its effectiveness against decompression sickness (occurring whenever scuba divers encounter "the bends"), carbon monoxide poisoning, anemia, and skin graft rejection, among other ailments.
A diver suffering from decompression sickness was rescued by Oban lifeboat on Saturday.
Before take-off, Cruise spent 20 minutes on the ground breathing pure oxygen in order to avoid decompression sickness. The actor then climbed to 7,620 metres into the air, at which time all the lighting on the aircraft turned from white to red.
The diver got into difficulty on May 8 and was showing symptoms of decompression sickness after completing a dive in the Union Hall area of Cork.