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Aviat Space Environ Med. 1996 Jul;67(7):618-24.

Exercise-enhanced preoxygenation increases protection from decompression sickness.

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KRUG Life Sciences Inc., Brooks AFB, TX, USA.
Armstrong Lab, Brooks AFB, TX



Prevention of decompression sickness (DCS) during exposure to altitude equivalents of 30,000 ft (9144 m) requires extensive denitrogenation. In preparation for extravehicular activity (EVA), present NASA policy is to denitrogenate using a 10.2 psia staged decompression of the entire shuttle for at least 12 h, including 100 min of preoxygenation (breathing 100% oxygen at 14.7 psia prior to decompression), before decompression to the 4.3 psia (30,000 ft; 9144 m) suit pressure. This staged decompression provides the same or better protection from DCS as a 3.5- or 4-h preoxygenation used on earlier Shuttle EVA's. For high altitude reconnaissance flights at similar cockpit altitudes, a 1-h preoxygenation is currently required.


We have investigated the use of a 1-h and a 15-min preoxygenation period, each beginning with 10 min of dual-cycle ergometry performed at 75% of each subject's peak oxygen consumption (VO2peak) to enhance preoxygenation efficiency by increasing perfusion and ventilation. Male subjects accomplished a 1-h preoxygenation with exercise, a 15-min preoxygenation with exercise, or a 1-h resting preoxygenation before exposure to 4.3 psia for 4 h while performing light to moderate exercise.


Incidence of DCS following the 1-h preoxygenation with exercise (42%; n = 26) was significantly less than that following the 1-h resting preoxygenation (77%; n = 26). Incidence and onset of DCS following the 15-min preoxygenation with exercise (64%; n = 22) was not significantly different from the incidence following the 1-h resting control.


Preoxygenation with exercise has been shown to provide significantly improved DCS protection when compared with resting preoxygenation.

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