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Decompression Sickness

Overview :

According to the Divers Alert Network (DAN), a worldwide organization devoted to safe-diving research and promotion, less than 1% of divers fall victim to DCS or the rarer bubble problem called gas embolism, air embolism, or arterial gas embolism (AGE). A study of the United States military community in Okinawa, where tens of thousands of sport and military dives are made each year, identified 84 DCS and 10 AGE cases in 1989–95, including nine deaths. This translated into estimates of one case in every 7,400 dives and one death in every 76,900 dives. DCS symptoms can be quite mild, however, and many cases certainly go unnoticed by divers.

At times the terminology adopted by writers on DCS can be confusing. Some substitute the term decompression illness (DCI) for DCS. Others treat DCI as a label encompassing both DCS and AGE. An older term for DCS is caisson disease, coined in the nineteenth century when it was discovered that bridge construction crews working at the bottom of lakes and rivers in large pressurized enclosures (caissons) were experiencing joint pain (a typical DCS symptom) on returning to the surface.

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