Document Type

Master's Culminating Experience

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Introduction: Although the physics of decompression sickness (DCS) is well understood, an individual’s unique response to the bubble formation places the United States Air Force’s (USAF) Airmen and missions at risk. We identified 123 decompression sickness diagnoses in the USAF between the years 2005-2010. From these cases we attempted to identify an association between the disease and the two occupations that are routinely performing high-altitude duties, the U2 pilot and the hypobaric chamber technician. Methods: A Chi-squared analysis was performed to identify if DCS was associated with the high-altitude occupations, tobacco, or alcohol. Results: There association between DCS and U2 pilots or altitude chamber technicians was extremely statistically significant with a two-tailed p value less than 0.0000001, and an odds ratio of 150.6. There was no association between the DCS cases and tobacco or alcohol use. We identified 87 cases not connected to high-risk duties. Discussion: We expected the association between high-risk occupations and the diagnosis of DCS. We did not expect the high number of DSC cases in the low-risk group and the disproportionate number of cases chamber technicians had within the high-altitude occupations.

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