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Undersea Hyperb Med. 1997 Winter;24(4):337-45.

Compressed air tunneling and caisson work decompression procedures: development, problems, and solutions.

Author information

1
Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee 53226, USA.

Abstract

Multinational experience over many years indicates that all current air decompression schedules for caisson and compressed air tunnel workers are inadequate. All of them, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration tables, produce dysbaric osteonecrosis. The problem is compounded because decompression sickness (DCS) tends to be underreported. Permanent damage in the form of central nervous system or brain damage may occur in compressed air tunnel workers, as seen on magnetic resonance imaging, in addition to dysbaric osteonecrosis. Oxygen decompression seems to be the only viable method for safely decompressing tunnel workers. Oxygen decompression of tunnel workers has been successfully used in Germany, France, and Brazil. In Germany, only oxygen decompression of compressed air workers is permitted. In our experience, U.S. Navy tables 5 and 6 usually prove adequate to treat DCS in caisson workers despite extremely long exposure times, allowing patients to return to work following treatment for DCS. Tables based on empirical data and not on mathematical formulas seem to be reasonably safe. U.S. Navy Exceptional Exposure Air Decompression tables are compared with caisson tables from the United States and Great Britain.

PMID:
9444066
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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