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Decompression Syndromes: The Bends (cont.)

The Bends Prevention

Decompression illness or the bends and other types of barotrauma (decompression sickness) may be prevented by following guidelines for diving taught in professional diving courses.

The following actions increase risk of developing decompression illness:

  • Diving outside dive table recommendations
  • Flying within 18 hours after diving: Most experts consider it reasonably safe to fly 12 hours after a person's last dive if they only once, dove easily within the dive tables, and no decompression stop was required. For more complicated diving, waits of 48 hours have been recommended. In general, the longer a person wait to fly after diving, the lower the risk of developing decompression sickness. Even long waits, however, do not reduce the risk all the way to zero.
  • Data collected by DAN (Divers Alert Network) from 1987 to 1999, showed that 17% of divers in the DAN injury database had their first symptoms of DCS either during or after flying.
  • Diving in cold water
  • Obesity (nitrogen is lipid-soluble)
  • Dehydration
  • Recent alcohol intoxication
  • Vigorous exertion while diving
  • Multiple repetitive dives
  • Jogging or other heavy exercise within 6 hours of a dive
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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