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Aviat Space Environ Med. 1990 Nov;61(11):1028-31.

The risk of developing decompression sickness during air travel following altitude chamber flight.

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Dept. of Hyperbaric Medicine, USAF Medical Center, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH 45433-5300.


Approximately 35,000 students are trained annually in United States Air Force (USAF) altitude chambers. Students who depart the training site via aircraft on the same day as their altitude chamber exposure may place themselves at increased risk for decompression sickness (DCS). Air travel as a passenger in the immediate post-chamber flight period is unrestricted by current USAF regulations. A retrospective study was conducted to assess the potential risk involved in such post-chamber flight travel. During the years 1982-87, there were 292 cases of DCS involving altitude chamber students which were subsequently treated with hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Only seven cases were found wherein the student was asymptomatic prior to air travel and subsequently developed DCS. Because the percentage of students who postpone travel is unknown, a precise relative risk could not be determined. Although the number of cases where sequential chamber and aircraft hypobaric exposures has initiated DCS is small, the potential for such occurrences remains a health concern.

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