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March 1999 Vol. 25, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Do Repetitive Flights Up Your Odds of the Bends?

from the March, 1999 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Conservative thinking calls for divers to wait twenty-four hours between diving and flying. However, a case presented at the International Joint Meeting on Hyperbaric and Underwater Medicine raises a potential new danger — repetitive flights.

A 37-year-old experienced diver traveled to the Caribbean for a six-day dive trip from her home in Idaho. She made ten no-decompression dives in six days, then started her four-leg flight home thirty hours later.

Upon landing after the third leg, she noted the onset of classic skin bends (niggles). Despite this symptom, she continued to her next flight and arrived home with a dull pain in her right shoulder. Four hours later, she awoke with the sudden onset of acute anxiety, shortness of breath, chest pain, and continued right shoulder pain. She consulted the local emergency room and was referred for emergency treatment in a monoplace chamber nearby. After treatment, she exited without symptoms and has remained in good health.

Although the risk of flying after diving is well recognized, the increased risk of repetitive flights has not been previously reported. Since bubbling is a highly individual characteristic and is typically unknown to the person with a propensity for this phenomenon, this case suggests further caution in multi-flight trips.

Reported by F.S. Cramer, P.J. Sheffield, and J.C. Davis in Underwater and Hyperbaric Medicine, Vol. 13, No.6.

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