Severe spinal cord decompression illness after an uneventful North Sea dive

T. P. van Rees Vellinga, P. J. A. M. van Ooij, F. J. H. van Dijk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The aim of this case report is to illustrate that, even under moderate conditions, a dive can result in spinal cord decompression illness (DCI). The diver in question completed five dives with the same profile. The first four included substantial physical strain, while the final dive was for observation only, without physical strain. The spinal cord was the target organ for DCI. We discuss the roles of various diver-related risk factors and of factors related to the dive itself. Older divers have a higher risk for decompression incidents. The nature of the dive profile is a major factor in the uptake and release of inert gas. Physical exertion during pressure-exposure boosts the inert gas load, increases bubbling in tissues and raises the risk of DCI in the decompression phase of the dive. We discuss the causal involvement of such risk factors in this case, given the characteristics of the diver and the circumstances of the dive. Finally, we want to express our concern for physical fitness and smoking habits, especially for divers over the age of 40
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-210
JournalUndersea & hyperbaric medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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