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Decompression Syndromes: The Bends (cont.)

The Bends Medical Treatment

The doctor will first treat immediate life threats, such as breathing problems or shock, if present.

  • The diver will need high-flow oxygen and IV fluids. Blood and urine will be sent for laboratory tests to assess any blood clotting problems and hydration status.
  • The diver will likely need to go to a hyperbaric chamber for recompression. During recompression, the chamber becomes pressurized with air and oxygen based on prearranged protocols to simulate pressure depths of 30 to 60 feet. The duration of "the dive" within the chamber varies, but can be up to 12 hours and sometimes longer. At this depth or chamber pressures, bubbles are reduced in size or reabsorbed to ensure adequate blood flow. Recompression prevents further bubble formation and provides high amounts of oxygen to the injured tissues. Further treatments depend on how the diver responds to the initial treatment.
  • Often the person is admitted to the hospital to monitor medical condition and to ensure that there is no recurrence of symptoms.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/26/2013
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Decompression Sickness »

Although decompression sickness (DCS), a complex resulting from changed barometric pressure, includes high-altitude–related and aerospace-related events, this article focuses on decompression associated with the sudden decrease in pressures during underwater ascent, usually occurring during free or assisted dives.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


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