Acclimation to decompression sickness in rats

Naval Medical Research Center, 503 Robert Grant Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20910-7800, USA.
Journal of Applied Physiology (Impact Factor: 3.06). 03/2010; 108(3):596-603. DOI: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00596.2009
Source: PubMed


Protection against decompression sickness (DCS) by acclimation to hyperbaric decompression has been hypothesized but never proven. We exposed rats to acclimation dives followed by a stressful "test" dive to determine whether acclimation occurred. Experiments were divided into two phases. Phase 1 rats were exposed to daily acclimation dives of hyperbaric air for 30 min followed by rapid decompression on one of the following regimens: 70 ft of seawater (fsw) for 9 days (L70), 70 fsw for 4 days (S70), 40 fsw for 9 days (L40), 40 fsw for 4 days (S40), or unpressurized sham exposure for 9 days (Control). On the day following the last exposure, all were subjected to a "test" dive (175 fsw, 60 min, rapid decompression). Both L70 and S70 rats had significantly lower incidences of DCS than Control rats (36% and 41% vs. 62%, respectively). DCS incidences for the other regimens were lower than in Control rats but without statistical significance. Phase 2 used the most protective regimen from phase 1 (L70); rats were exposed to L70 or a similar regimen with a less stressful staged decompression. Another group was exposed to a single acclimation dive (70 fsw/30 min) on the day before the test dive. We observed a nonsignificant trend for the rapidly decompressed L70 dives to be more protective than staged decompression dives (44% vs. 51% DCS incidence). The single acclimation dive regimen did not provide protection. We conclude that protection against DCS can be attained with acclimating exposures that do not themselves cause DCS. The deeper acclimation dive regimens (70 fsw) provided the most protection.

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