Decompression Sickness Quiz

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Medically Reviewed By:

Maxwell J. Nanes

Maxwell J. Nanes, DO

Emergency department

Sanshiro Kato

Sanshiro Kato, MD

Emergency department

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Learn more about Decompression sickness

Content updated on Sep 20, 2022

What is decompression sickness?

Decompression sickness (also called "the bends") refers to problems caused by rapid decrease in the surrounding pressure (either air or water). This causes gases to shift dangerously out of the blood stream. It most commonly occurs during scuba-diving, when rising to the surface happens too quickly. Rarely, it can happen in airplanes, typically in military pilots travelling at high rates of speed through upper and lower atmosphere layers.

Symptoms of decompression sickness

  • Muscle pain

  • Joint pain even when resting

  • Joint pain

  • Pain across the entire body

  • Knee pain

  • Pain in the knuckles or finger joints

  • Thigh pain

  • Arm pain

Questions your doctor may ask to check for decompression sickness

Your doctor may ask these questions to diagnose decompression sickness

  • Do you have any muscle pain?

  • Do you have joint pain even when you are at rest?

  • Do you have any joint pain?

  • Do you have pain all over the body?

  • Do you have pain in the knee(s)

Treatment for decompression sickness

Emergency treatment for decompression sickness involves maintaining blood pressure, administering oxygen and fluids. The person should be placed on their left side with the head of the bed tilted down. Hyperbaric oxygen chambers are often used to drive the unwanted gases back into the bloodstream.

View the symptoms of Decompression sickness

References

  • Sun Q, Gao G. Decompression Sickness. N Engl J Med. 2017 Oct 19;377(16):1568. doi: 10.1056/NEJMicm1615505. PMID: 29045210.

    https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMicm1615505

  • Mahon RT, Regis DP. Decompression and decompression sickness. Compr Physiol. 2014 Jul;4(3):1157-75. doi: 10.1002/cphy.c130039. PMID: 24944033.

    https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cphy.c130039

Medically Reviewed By:

Maxwell J. Nanes

Maxwell J. Nanes, DO

Emergency department

Sanshiro Kato

Sanshiro Kato, MD

Emergency department

From our team of 50+ doctors

Just 3 minutes.
Developed by doctors.

Ubie is supervised by 50+ medical experts worldwide

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