Background: Several physiological factors have been suspected of affecting the risk of decompression sickness (DCS), but few have been thoroughly studied during controlled conditions. Dehydration is a potential factor that could increase the risk of DCS. It has been suggested that hydration may enhance inert gas removal or increase surface tension of the blood.
Hypothesis: Dehydration increases DCS risk.
Methods: Littermate pairs of male Yorkshire swine (n=57, mean +/- 1 SD 20.6 +/- 1.7 kg) were randomized into two groups. The hydrated group received no medication and was allowed ad lib access to water during a simulated saturation dive. The dehydrated group received intravenous 2 mg x kg(-1) Lasix (a diuretic medication) without access to water throughout the dive. Animals were then compressed on air to 110 ft of seawater (fsw, 4.33 ATA) for 22 h and brought directly to the surface at a rate of 30 fsw x min(-1) (0.91 ATA x min(-1)). Outcomes of death and non-fatal central nervous system (CNS) or cardiopulmonary DCS were recorded.
Results: In the hydrated group (n=31): DCS=10, cardiopulmonary DCS=9, CNS DCS=2, Death=4. In the dehydrated group (n=26): DCS=19, cardiopulmonary DCS=19, CNS DCS=6, Death=9. Dehydration significantly increased the overall risk of severe DCS and death. Specifically, it increased the risk of cardiopulmonary DCS, and showed a trend toward increased CNS DCS. In addition, dehydrated subjects manifested cardiopulmonary DCS sooner and showed a trend toward more rapid death (p < 0.1).
Conclusion: Hydration status at the time of decompression significantly influences the incidence and time to onset of DCS in this model.