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Decompression diseases

Decompression diseases are diseases associated with the transition from a medium with increased air pressure to a medium with lower pressure. Decompression diseases are most common among divers, pilots.

A variety of decompression diseases is a caisson disease that develops in divers and caissons. The development of the disease is due to the formation of free gas bubbles (mainly nitrogen) in the tissues of the body, lymph and blood. Nitrogen bubbles are formed among divers and caissons, and in addition to nitrogen, pilots also produce carbon dioxide . From the size, number and localization of gas bubbles depend on the nature and severity of the disease.

The disease usually manifests itself soon after the release of pressure. During the stay of a diver on the ground at a depth of 90-100 m and more, the narcotic effect of nitrogen may be manifested. Signs of intoxication - laughter, talkativeness, hallucinations.

According to the clinical course distinguish mild, moderate, severe forms of decompression diseases, as well as chronic.


The main symptoms of decompression diseases are associated with blockage of blood vessels with gas bubbles. When the vascular occlusion of the skin, subcutaneous fatty tissue, painful itching , erythematous rash and edema of certain skin areas occur. There is pain in the joints, bones, muscles due to irritation of the nerve receptors by gas bubbles. Bone pain, in addition, may be associated with the localization of gas in the bone marrow. Changes in the inner ear with the occurrence of Menera syndrome can also be associated with the above symptoms (see Menyer’s disease).

Vascular embolism of the gastrointestinal tract causes abdominal pain, nausea , vomiting, diarrhea .

In some cases, developing an eye disorder. There may be signs of cardiovascular and pulmonary insufficiency with blockage of coronary and regional vessels.

Chronic forms are characterized by repeated embolism of bones and joints; diaphysis, epiphyses and cartilages of the femoral, humeral and tibial bones are most often affected. The movements in the limbs become obstructed, muscle atrophy develops. There may also be symptoms characteristic of spinal cord and labyrinth damage .

The diagnosis of decompression sickness is not difficult, the prognosis depends on the form, course of the disease and the timeliness of treatment.

Treatment . Rapid recompression in special recompression chambers (treatment gateways), i.e., pressure increase to the level at which the work was performed. In this case, the gas bubbles are compressed to a safe size, the nitrogen again goes into a soluble state. After that, a slow decrease in pressure is carried out. The efficiency of recompression can be enhanced by the use of pure oxygen. Upon leaving the airlock, it is recommended that the patient be prescribed plenty of drinks, painkillers and other symptomatic agents, warm water or air baths.

Prevention . Regular medical examination, control of diving equipment, the pilots - for the tightness of the cockpit, the correct mode of decompression.

Medical personnel should instruct divers, workers engaged in decompression work, about the possibility of decompression diseases and about measures to prevent them. It is necessary to instruct on the rules of conduct during decompression.

In the recompression chamber there should be electric heaters, blankets, hot drink. Alcohol is prohibited.