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decompression sickness


Definition: a symptom complex caused by the escape from solution in the body fluids of nitrogen bubbles absorbed originally at high atmospheric pressure, as a result of abrupt reduction in atmospheric pressure (either rapid ascent to high altitude or return from a compressed-air environment); it is characterized by headache; pain in the arms, legs, joints, and epigastrium; itching of the skin; vertigo; dyspnea; coughing; choking; vomiting; weakness (and sometimes) paralysis; and severe peripheral circulatory collapse. Bone infarcts can occur from bubbles in nutrient vessels leading to long-term consequences.

Synonym(s): caisson disease, decompression disease, diver's palsy

See Also: caisson sickness

Further information

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© Copyright 2018 Wolters Kluwer. All Rights Reserved. Review date: Sep 19, 2016.