Oxygen Oasis - A Center for Healing

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Decompression illness

When scuba diving, additional oxygen and nitrogen dissolve in body tissues. The additional oxygen is consumed by the tissues, but the excess nitrogen must be washed out by the blood during decompression. During or after ascent this excess nitrogen gas can form bubbles in the tissues, analogous to the carbon dioxide bubbles that form when a carbonated beverage container is opened. These bubbles may then cause symptoms that are referred to as decompression sickness (“DCS” or “the bends”). Trapping of gas within the lungs during ascent, either because the lung is diseased or because of breath-holding, can cause bubbles to be forced into the bloodstream (“arterial gas embolism” or “AGE”), where they can block the flow of blood or damage the lining of blood vessels supplying critical organs such as the brain. The success of hyperbaric oxygen treatment for DCS or AGE has borne the test of time, and continues to be the standard of care for the treatment of these disorders.

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