Decompression models: review, relevance and validation capabilities

Undersea Hyperb Med. 2014 Nov-Dec;41(6):531-56.


Introduction/background: For more than a century, several types of mathematical models have been proposed to describe tissue desaturation mechanisms in order to limit decompression sickness. These models are statistically assessed by DCS cases, and, over time, have gradually included bubble formation biophysics. This paper proposes to review this evolution and discuss its limitations.

Methods: This review is organized around the comparison of decompression model biophysical criteria and theoretical foundations. Then, the DCS-predictive capability was analyzed to assess whether it could be improved by combining different approaches.

Results: Most of the operational decompression models have a neo-Haldanian form. Nevertheless, bubble modeling has been gaining popularity, and the circulating bubble amount has become a major output. By merging both views, it seems possible to build a relevant global decompression model that intends to simulate bubble production while predicting DCS risks for all types of exposures and decompression profiles.

Conclusions: A statistical approach combining both DCS and bubble detection databases has to be developed to calibrate a global decompression model. Doppler ultrasound and DCS data are essential: i. to make correlation and validation phases reliable; ii. to adjust biophysical criteria to fit at best the observed bubble kinetics; and iii. to build a relevant risk function.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Air
  • Decompression Sickness / etiology
  • Decompression Sickness / physiopathology
  • Decompression Sickness / therapy*
  • Decompression*
  • Diving / physiology
  • Diving / standards
  • Helium / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Models, Statistical
  • Naval Medicine / standards
  • Nitrogen / metabolism
  • Reference Values
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Time Factors


  • Helium
  • Nitrogen