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Aviat Space Environ Med. 1993 Sep;64(9 Pt 1):859-65.

The oxygen window and decompression bubbles: estimates and significance.

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Department of Physiology, University at Buffalo, SUNY 14214.


The "oxygen window" causes a partial pressure difference of inert gas between the inside and outside of decompression bubbles. Estimates of Po2 and Pco2 in tissue are necessary for O2 window calculations and any calculations about growth or decay of decompression sickness bubbles, but the estimates involve many uncertainties. Using simplifying assumptions, we estimated the O2 window over a broad range of environments for tissues having a wide range of O2 extractions. The results were as follows: a) the window increases with ambient pressure, but levels off at very high pressure; b) the window is only 1 or 2 kPa for air breathing at extreme altitudes, and 200 kPa or more in hyperbaric environments; c) when O2 is breathed instead of air, the window is as much as 50 times larger at altitude but only about 10 times larger in hyperbaric environments; d) changes in bubble size due to the window decrease as barometric pressure increases; and e) there are seven additional factors which may supplement or oppose the action of the oxygen window.

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