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Decompression Diving Procedures

To decompress and off gas excess inert gas correctly and efficiently is imperative so as to avoid decompression illness (DCI). By following the staged decompression procedures outlined here, your ability to off gas sufficiently increases and makes decompression diving safer. Remember, however, that no matter how stringent you follow decompression guidelines and safety factors, you can still be susceptible to getting DCI on any dive.

· Make sure you and your team hydrates well prior to the dive. Start hydration at least 12 hours prior to the dive and make sure to hydrate after the dive.

· Plan your dive appropriately with the right gases for your bottom mix and your decompression mixes. Use gases that limit inert gas buildup and allow for the best and most efficient off gassing during decompression.

· Locate, set up, and mark a point that provides the entire dive team a suitable place to decompress. This might include a down line when wreck diving or specific location in a cave or cavern when cave diving. You should be able to rest comfortably with some type of handhold so that your chest remains at a constant depth. You don’t want to be moving up and down. Sometimes knowing exactly where you’re going to decompress at each stop depth is not practical, but knowing the requirements you need to follow when at a stop depth can help you decide on a spot during the dive.

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Decompression Illness

Photo: Steve May

Decompression illness (DCI), also known as “the bends” or caisson disease, is a illness that occurs when bubbles form in your body’s tissues because of an excessive quantity of inert gas (nitrogen or helium) due to inadequate decompression following the exposure to increased pressure. During a dive, your body’s tissues absorb nitrogen or helium from your breathing gas in proportion to the surrounding pressure. As long as you remain at pressure (depth), the inert gas does not present any problems. If the pressure is reduced too quickly, from a rapid ascent for example, the inert gas can come out of solution and form bubbles in your body’s tissues and bloodstream. Once bubbles are formed they may or may not produce symptoms based on their eventual growth. When symptoms occur, they relate to the area in the body where the bubble is located.

DCI can occur as a result of violating no decompression limits and not properly decompressing during your ascent, ascending too rapidly on a no decompression dive, pushing dive tables to their limits, skipping or shortening decompression stops during a staged decompression dive, or pushing the limits on tables or dive computers when making repetitive dives. But, DCI can also occur even when you follow all of the recommended guidelines and safety factors.

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Prevention of Decompression Illness

Preventing DCI one hundred percent is not probable or realistic. DCI can occur even when you follow all of the guidelines and safety factors and your day to day body physiology can change, which can increase or decease your susceptibility of getting DCI.

There are a number of things you can do to limit the risks of getting DCI:
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Predisposing Factors of Decompression Illness

There are a number of predisposing factors that can lead to decompression illness even when all of the appropriate guidelines and safety factors are followed. Some factors are at the mercy of the environment, such as water temperature and elevation. Other factors are physiological and pertain to each individual person, which can change from day to day and the techniques you use in the execution of your dive, ascent, and decompression.
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Decompression Diving Overview

As your desire to dive deeper and stay longer expands, you leave the realm of recreational diving and the no decompression limits that you were taught. Diving deeper and staying longer at depth moves you into decompression diving. Decompression diving requires detailed planning, preparation, equipment, and mind set and takes you into a very advanced form of diving. If you have the desire to explore wrecks, caves, or whatever that lays in deep water, getting the proper training to safely operate and return from these depths is a must. Before you can return to the surface, you must decompress.

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