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Undersea Hyperb Med. 2007 Mar-Apr;34(2):107-22.

Effect of heliox, oxygen and air breathing on helium bubbles after heliox diving.

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  • 1Laboratory ofHyperbaric Medicine, Department of anaesthesia, Centre of Head and Orthopaedics, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen University Hospital, Denmark.


In helium saturated rat abdominal adipose tissue, helium bubbles were studied at 101.3 kPa during breathing of either heliox(80:20), 100% oxygen or air after decompression from an exposure to heliox at 405 kPa for one hour. While breathing heliox bubbles initially grew for 15-115 minutes then shrank slowly; three out of 10 bubbles disappeared in the observation period. During oxygen breathing all bubbles initially grew for 10-80 minutes then shrank until they disappeared from view; in the growing phase, oxygen caused faster growth than heliox breathing, but bubbles disappeared sooner with oxygen breathing than with heliox or air breathing. In the shrinking phase, shrinkage is faster with heliox and oxygen breathing than with air breathing. Air breathing caused consistent growth of all bubbles. With heliox and oxygen breathing, most animals survived during the observation period but with air breathing, most animals died of decompression sickness regardless of whether the surrounding atmosphere was helium or air. If recompression beyond the maximum treatment pressure of oxygen is required, these results indicate that a breathing mixture of heliox may be better than air during the treatment of decompression sickness following heliox diving.

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