Recreational technical diving part 2: decompression from deep technical dives.
Technical divers perform deep, mixed-gas 'bounce' dives, which are inherently inefficient because even a short duration at the target depth results in lengthy decompression. Technical divers use decompression schedules generated from modified versions of decompression algorithms originally developed for other types of diving. Many modifications ostensibly produce shorter and/or safer decompression, but have generally been driven by anecdote. Scientific evidence relevant to many of these modifications exists, but is often difficult to locate. This review assembles and examines scientific evidence relevant to technical diving decompression practice. There is a widespread belief that bubble algorithms, which redistribute decompression in favour of deeper decompression stops, are more efficient than traditional, shallow-stop, gas-content algorithms, but recent laboratory data support the opposite view. It seems unlikely that switches from helium- to nitrogen-based breathing gases during ascent will accelerate decompression from typical technical bounce dives. However, there is evidence for a higher prevalence of neurological decompression sickness (DCS) after dives conducted breathing only helium-oxygen than those with nitrogen-oxygen. There is also weak evidence suggesting less neurological DCS occurs if helium-oxygen breathing gas is switched to air during decompression than if no switch is made. On the other hand, helium-to-nitrogen breathing gas switches are implicated in the development of inner-ear DCS arising during decompression. Inner-ear DCS is difficult to predict, but strategies to minimize the risk include adequate initial decompression, delaying helium-to-nitrogen switches until relatively shallow, and the use of the maximum safe fraction of inspired oxygen during decompression.
Doolette, DJ; Mitchell, SJ
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