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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Probabilistic model of altitude decompression sickness based on mechanistic premises.

To develop a predictive equation and to test ideas about the mechanisms involved in hypobaric decompression sickness, we performed statistical analyses on published results of 7,023 exercising O2-breathing men subjected to one-step decompressions in altitude chambers. The dependent variable was signs or symptoms so severe that the person's trial was terminated (forced descent). The three independent variables were 1) duration of 100% O2 breathing at ground level (prebreathing), 2) atmospheric pressure after ascent, and 3) exposure duration. The best model, chosen from trial-and-error combinations of premises about bubble behavior, indicates that decompression sickness outcome depends on 1) prebreathing time, but with an unexpectedly long washout half time for N2; 2) time at altitude, as if bubbles grow; and 3) the estimated difference, raised to the fifth power, between the partial pressure of N2 in tissue before and that in bubbles after decompression, perhaps an index of the number of bubbles generated. We expect the model to provide accurate predictions for decompressions matching those of the bulk of the data; the mechanistic cues should be considered hypotheses for further investigation.[1]


  1. Probabilistic model of altitude decompression sickness based on mechanistic premises. Van Liew, H.D., Conkin, J., Burkard, M.E. J. Appl. Physiol. (1994) [Pubmed]
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