Body fat does not affect venous bubble formation after air dives of moderate severity: theory and experiment

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For over a century, studies on body fat (BF) in decompression sickness and venous gas embolism of divers have been inconsistent. A major problem is that age, BF, and maximal oxygen consumption (Vo2max) show high multicollinearity. Using the Bühlmann model with eight parallel compartments, preceded by a blood compartment in series, nitrogen tensions and loads were calculated with a 40 min/3.1 bar (absolute) profile. Compared with Haldanian models, the new model showed a substantial delay in N2 uptake and (especially) release. One hour after surfacing, an increase of 14-28% in BF resulted in a whole body increase of the N2 load of 51%, but in only 15% in the blood compartment. This would result in an increase in the bubble grade of only 0.01 Kisman-Masurel (KM) units at the scale near KM = I-. This outcome was tested indirectly by a dry dive simulation (air breathing) with 53 male divers with a small range in age and Vo2max to suppress multicollinearity. BF was determined with the four-skinfold method. Precordial Doppler bubble grades determined at 40, 80, 120, and 160 min after surfacing were used to calculate the Kisman Integrated Severity Score and were also transformed to the logarithm of the number of bubbles/cm(2) (logB). The highest of the four scores yielded logB = -1.78, equivalent to KM = I-. All statistical outcomes of partial correlations with BF were nonsignificant. These results support the model outcomes. Although this and our previous study suggest that BF does not influence venous gas embolism (Schellart NAM, van Rees Vellinga TP, van Dijk FH, Sterk W. Aviat Space Environ Med 83: 951-957, 2012), more studies with different profiles under various conditions are needed to establish whether BF remains (together with age and Vo2max) a basic physical characteristic or will become less important for the medical examination and for risk assessment
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)602-610
JournalJournal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md.
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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