Proposing short-term observation units for the management of decompression illness.
Decompression illness (DCI) is a potentially life-threatening disease, often requiring hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBO2) for symptom resolution. Once treated, current guidelines recommend an observation period of at least six hours for patients with neurological symptoms in case of relapse. Surveys have shown a symptom relapse rate as high as 38.5%, with half of those occurring in the first twenty-four hours. We propose that a short-term observation unit (OU) would be an ideal setting for these patients to be monitored. To evaluate this, we did a retrospective study of patients presenting with DCI at a major hyperbaric facility. One hundred and two consecutive patients were evaluated with DCI diagnosis and receiving HBO2. Forty-two (41.2%) patients had neurological sequelae; ten required more than one treatment for refractory symptoms or relapse. Thirty-eight of the forty-two patients received up to three treatments, which can be done within the time requirements of short-term observation. We conclude that OUs would provide a safe and efficient disposition for patients after receiving HBO2.
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