Post Decompression sickness

Post Decompression sickness

DAN medics and researchers answer your questions about dive medicine.
I am the physician of a patient who was treated for decompression sickness (DCS) in a hyperbaric chamber one year ago. The diver had complete resolution of his original symptom (shoulder pain) but is now complaining of persistent arthritis in his hands, wrists and back. Is there a causal relationship between rheumatologic symptoms and DCS? The patient’s current symptoms were not part of the original presentation, and he had no such symptoms prior to the DCS diagnosis.  
 

I am not aware of any serious attempt to link specific rheumatologic conditions and DCS. It is possible that residual sensitivity arising from the decompression insult is responsible for the subsequent symptoms. In this case the symptom development could diminish over time. It is also possible that the DCS increased inflammatory sensitivities that may remain in the future. But again no research to date supports this.
Distinguishing between these possibilities is probably not feasible, but it will be of value to follow the symptom evolution, if there is any, over time. If the diver continues to dive and alternates between cold and warmer exposures, I would be interested to learn if thermal status influences the response. It is most likely that these new complaints are coincidental given the interval of more than a year. Finally, an underlying condition such as osteoarthritis may have manifest in this patient; this warrants investigation during future follow-up evaluations.
— Neal W. Pollock, Ph.D., and James M. Chimiak M.D.

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