Decompression illness (DCI) results from a reduction in the pressure surrounding a body. It can occur in divers, compressed air workers, aviators and astronauts.
Diving-related decompression illness is classified into two main categories:
- arterial gas embolism (AGE) secondary to pulmonary decompression barotrauma
- decompression sickness (DCS) (also known as the bends or caisson disease)
The body takes in extra oxygen and nitrogen when exposed to high pressure. The oxygen is consumed by body tissues whereas nitrogen dissolves in blood. If the ambient pressure decreases too quickly, the nitrogen separates out of blood and forms bubbles in body tissues and the bloodstream.