2004 Jul 1
A deep stop during decompression from 82 fsw (25m) significantly reduces bubbles and fast tissue gas tensions
In spite of many modifications to decompression algorithms, the incidence of decompression sickness (DCS) in scuba divers has changed very little. The success of stage, compared to linear ascents, is well described yet theoretical changes in decompression ratios have diminished the importance of fast tissue gas tensions as critical for bubble generation. The most serious signs and symptoms of DCS involve the spinal cord, with a tissue half time of only 12.5 minutes. It is proposed that present decompression schedules do not permit sufficient gas elimination from such fast tissues, resulting in bubble formation. Further, it is hypothesized that introduction of a deep stop will significantly reduce fast tissue bubble formation and neurological DCS risk. A total of 181 dives were made to 82 fsw (25 m) by 22 volunteers. Two dives of 25 min and 20 min were made, with a 3 hr 30 min surface interval and according to 8 different ascent protocols. Ascent rates of 10, 33 or 60 fsw/min (3, 10, 18 m/min) were combined with no stops or a shallow stop at 20 fsw (6 m) or a deep stop at 50 fsw (15 m) and a shallow at 20 fsw (6 m). The highest bubbles scores (8.78/9.97), using the Spencer Scale (SS) and Extended Spencer Scale (ESS) respectively, were with the slowest ascent rate. This also showed the highest 5 min and 10 min tissue loads of 48% and 75%. The lowest bubble scores (1.79/2.50) were with an ascent rate of 33 fsw (10 m/min) and stops for 5 min at 50 fsw (15 m) and 20 fsw (6 m). This also showed the lowest 5 and 10 min tissue loads at 25% and 52% respectively. Thus, introduction of a deep stop significantly reduced Doppler detected bubbles together with tissue gas tensions in the 5 and 10 min tissues, which has implications for reducing the incidence of neurological DCS in divers.