Air and nitrox saturation decompression: a report of 4 schedules and 77 subjects.
Seventy-seven subjects were decompressed from air or nitrogen-oxygen (nitrox) saturation exposures at 18.3 to 40.2 meters sea water (msw) [60 to 132 feet sea water (fsw)] using four different decompression schedules. A h schedule for decompression from an air saturation-excursion profile at 18.3 msw (60 fsw) resulted in pain-only decompression sickness (DCS) symptoms in 2 of 23 subjects. A 32 and 35 h schedule from a different air saturation profile at 19.8 and 22.9 msw (65 and 75 fsw), respectively, resulted in DCS symptoms in 1 of 24 subjects. A third and fourth schedule for air or nitrox saturation at 40.2 msw (132 fsw) resulted in DCS symptoms in 3 of 12 and 1 of 18, respectively. No serious (type II) symptoms were observed as a result of any of the decompressions. All DCS cases consisted of knee pain occurring either in the last 3 msw of the decompression or shortly after surfacing. Doppler ultrasound monitoring revealed venous gas emboli (VGE) in several subjects, but generally only shallow to 6.1 msw (20 fsw). Results demonstrate an overall DCS incidence of 9%, and all cases were pain-only and localized to the knee. The third schedule (U.S. Navy heliox saturation decompression schedule) seems to produce a higher incidence of DCS than the other schedules when used in air or nitrox exposures. Differentiation between the schedules designed for nitrox was impossible due to the limited number of subjects in each and the variable nature of the exposures.
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