D is for Deep-Sea Diver

22 Apr

D is for Diver J


It is well known (fairly well known) that if a deep sea diver who has spent time at high pressure ascends to the surface too quickly, rapid decompression occurs and dissolved gases in the tissues of the body come out of solution. Air bubbles form in the blood stream (or in any tissue) and cause joint pain, paralysis or death. This is “The Bends” otherwise known as caisson disease. A good example of this is when a bottle of a carbonated drink is opened and the pressure inside is released, bubbles form in the liquid.

The disease was first brought to public attention during construction of Brooklyn Bridge when men, including the project leader, working in the high-pressure environment of the underwater caisson developed a mysterious set of symptoms. Some died.

Interestingly a scuba diver who, even if he makes a safe ascent to the surface, then ascends to altitude, say in an aeroplane, has a much higher risk of developing the disease.

My picture today contains the X-ray image of a woman diver who rose through the water too quickly and suffered terrible formation of bubbles of nitrogen in her blood. There were arterial gas emboli, and these nearly killed her. The Chest X-ray taken in a barometric chamber showed gas in her soft tissues, mainly around the heart and major blood vessels. I do not know the outcome of this case, though with prompt treatment it is possible she might have survived.



3 Responses to “D is for Deep-Sea Diver”

  1. jamesgmoon April 23, 2016 at 10:33 am #

    microscopic X ray?, How does it come,

    • Xraypics April 23, 2016 at 2:48 pm #

      The gas comes out of solution and collects in the soft tissues as bubbles that are clearly seen on an X-ray. sometimes there is enough gas to fill the blood-vessels, and even to fill the chambers of the heart. By the time it is visible on an X-ray it is no longer microscopic.

  2. Anita C. Miller April 24, 2016 at 12:15 pm #

    Beautiful image, Tony! I love the colors. I think this is one of my favorites. As always, I learned something, too.

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