The incidence of decompression illness in 10 years of scientific diving

Diving Safety Officer at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Dauphin Island, Alabama.
Journal of the South Pacific Underwater Medicine Society (Impact Factor: 0.68). 12/2012; 42(4):195-200.
Source: PubMed


The American Academy of Underwater Science (AAUS) constitutes the single largest pool of organizations with scientific diving programmes in North America. Members submit annual summaries of diving activity and any related incidents.
All diving records for a 10-year period between January 1998 and December 2007 were reviewed. Incidents were independently classified or reclassified by a four-person panel with expertise in scientific diving and diving safety using a previously published protocol. Subsequent panel discussion produced a single consensus classification of each case.
A total of 95 confirmed incidents were reported in conjunction with 1,019,159 scientific dives, yielding an overall incidence of 0.93/10,000 person-dives. A total of 33 cases were determined to involve decompression illness (DCI), encompassing both decompression sickness and air embolism. The incidence of DCI was 0.324/10,000 person-dives, substantially lower than the rates of 0.9-35.3/10,000 published for recreational, instructional/guided, commercial and/or military diving.
Scientific diving safety may be facilitated by a combination of relatively high levels of training and oversight, the predominance of shallow, no-decompression diving and, possibly, low pressure to complete dives under less than optimal circumstances.

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