DCS Prevention

Prior to 1980, there was an organization known as “Leofast”, located at Brooks A.F.B., TX , where divers consulted with hyperbaric physicians concerning possible diving injuries.
In the twelve years prior to 1980 there were 62 cases of DCS reported and described. Here are some of the suspected causes of the illnesses thought to be DCS:

  • Repititive dive
  • Exceeded No-decompression limits
  • Running out of air, rapid ascent
  • Diving on the edge of No-decompression limits
  • Deep or repetitive dives using computer outside the limits of the tables or no-decompression limits
  • Flying after diving
  • Diving at altitude
  • Vigorous exercise before and after a dive

There are other factors that are thought to increase the chances of getting DCS but have little data in support; some of these are:

  • Age; risk increases in proportion to increase in age
  • Obesity
  • Fatigue, Hard physical work
  • Dehydration, due to any cause (coffee, oral diuretics, alcohol, vomiting and diarrhea states, failure to drink non-alcoholic liquids)
  • Alcohol and hangover state (related to dehydration)
  • Medical problems increasing the viscosity of the blood (Sickle cell anemia and trait)
  • Injury to muscle, bone or joint (due to increased blood flow to inflamed area)
  • Rate of ascent
  • Repetitive, multiday dives after a long lay-off; deep prolonged air diving
  • Failure to do safety stops
  • Patent foramen ovale
  • Smoking habits
  • Adaptation or recent diving history
  • Conditioning
  • Underestimated depth
  • Table “fudging”

There is no good evidence that shows that a hot shower after diving increases the rate of decompression sickness.

Some believe that the use of aspirin might help prevent the adherence of blood platelets to bubbles, thereby reducing the chance of bubble damage.


Ernest S. Campbell, M.D., FACS

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