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Decompression sickness "divers' disease"

A 55-year-old male diver begins complaining of back pain and urinary retention 1 h after a dive. What is the MOST likely diagnosis?
  • (A)Barotrauma to the bladder
  • (B)Lumbar strain
  • (C)Neurotoxin from a marine envenomation
  • (D)Nitrogen narcosis
  • (E)Decompression sickness

The answer is E.
Barotrauma is the most common affliction of divers and usually affects the ears, sinuses, lungs, and, rarely, the gastrointestinal tract. The bladder is not involved.
Decompression sickness (DCS),also known as divers' disease, the bends or caisson disease, is caused by formation of gas bubbles in tissues after ascent from a dive and results in vascular occlusion, usually in the venous circulation. DCS may have cutaneous manifestations including rash and pruritus. It classically causes joint and back pain and may be associated with neurologic symptoms secondary to spinal cord involvement.

Patients with neurologic or other severe forms of DCS should be referred for hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Nitrogen narcosis is due to the anesthetic effects of breathing nitrogen at high partial pressures and causes divers to become altered on deep dives.

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