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Wien Med Wochenschr. 1999;151(5-6):111-6.

[Severe decompression sickness in divers].

[Article in German]

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Unfallkrankenhaus Klagenfurt, Osterreich, und dem Schiffahrtmedizinischen Institut der Marine Kronshagen, Deutschland.


The term "decompression illness (DCI)" is a disorder which arises from the presence of ectopic gas bubbles following decompression. Scuba diving poses the risk of two typically clinical syndromes: decompression sickness (DCS) and arterial gas embolism (AGE). DCS results from the formation of gas bubbles in the tissues of the body and in the blood due to rapid reduction of the environmental pressure. AGE is caused by pulmonary overinflation if the breathing gas cannot be exhaled adequately during the ascent. Although the pathophysiological mechanisms of these two disorders are quite different, both of them lead to the same result: inert gas bubbles that may cause impairment of vital functions due to hypoxia. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of DCI is the first step of the therapy. The emergency treatment contains: basic life support, advanced life support--if necessary, horizontal positioning of the victim, administration of 100% normobaric oxygen via face mask or endotracheal tube, rehydration, rapid transportation to the nearest emergency department/hyperbaric facility for definitive treatment in order to prevent serious neurological sequelae.

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