High-altitude decompression illness: case report and discussion

Allan, G. Michael; Kenny, David
October 2003
CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal;10/14/2003, Vol. 169 Issue 8, p803
Academic Journal
Decompression illness (DCI) can occur in a variety of contexts, including scuba diving and flight in nonpressurized aircraft. It is characterized by joint pain, neurologic injury, and respiratory or constitutional symptoms. To prepare flight crews for accidental decompression events, the Canadian Armed Forces regularly conducts controlled and supervised depressurization exercises in specialized chambers. We present the cases of 3 Canadian Armed Forces personnel who successfully completed such decompression exercises but experienced DCI after they took a 3-hour commercial flight 6 hours after the completion of training. All 3 patients were treated in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber. The pathophysiology, diagnosis and management of DCI and the travel implications for military personnel who have undergone such training exercises are discussed. Although DCI is relatively uncommon, physicians may see it and should be aware of its presentation and treatment. INSET: Key points.


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