Decompression Sickness • Orlando Hyperbarics Decompression Sickness • Orlando Hyperbarics

Decompression Sickness

Medical Condition

Name: Decompression Sickness (DCS)

Alternate Names: The Bends, Nitrogen Narcosis, Decompression Injury

Associated Anatomy: Blood Cells, Brain, Respiratory and Circulatory Systems


Decompression sickness (DCS) is commonly found in SCUBA divers but can occur in any situation that leads to a rapid decrease in the pressure surrounding the body. For instance as a SCUBA diver descends, nitrogen gas (air we breathe is mostly nitrogen) is absorbed by the muscle and other tissues of the body. If a SCUBA diver ascends too quickly, the nitrogen is forced from the tissues at a rate much faster than the body is able to absorb. This results in the formation of nitrogen gas bubbles in the bloodstream.

Symptoms of Decompression Sickness

Sign or Symptoms:

Symptoms of DCS include pain, numbness and tingling sensations throughout the body, shortness of breath, confusion, extreme fatigue, rash, ringing in the ears, unconsciousness, chest pain, headache, blurry vision and dizziness. Possible Treatment: Treatment for decompression sickness geared toward the maintenance of adequate gas exchange. Patients with DCS should receive 100% oxygen and should be mechanically ventilated if necessary. Fluids are usually delivered through an intravenous line (IV). In addition, aspirin is usually administered to keep the blood thinned to prevent blood clot formation. Immediate transport to the nearest Emergency Department or hyperbaric facility is necessary for the prompt treatment and recovery of the patient with DCS. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy reduce the number of nitrogen bubbles in the bloodstream, stimulates resorption of nitrogen, reduces swelling, reduces the stickiness of blood cells responsible for the formation of blood clots and reduces the permeability or leakiness of blood vessels.

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