Numerous studies have been conducted to identify the factors influencing the short-term prognosis for neurological decompression sickness (DCS). However, the long-term sequelae are rarely assessed. The purpose of this study to investigate the factors likely to influence the long-term prognosis.
Twenty-seven Vietnamese fishermen-divers who on average 9 (SD 6) years beforehand had presented with neurological DCS and ongoing sequelae, were questioned and examined. The severity of the initial clinical profile was quantified using a severity score. The long-term sequelae were clinically evaluated by looking for a motor or sensory deficit or muscular spasticity, and by applying a severity score for the sequelae which focussed on gait and sphincter disorders.
An initial severity score of ≥ 15 is significantly associated with a risk of serious long-term sequelae [OR = 13.7 (95% CI 2.4 to 79.5)]. Furthermore, certain treatment practices such as in-water recompression to depths > 17 metres’ seawater breathing air are significantly associated with more serious sequelae. The practice of intensive non-standardised hyperbaric oxygen sessions over prolonged durations (median 30 days [IQR 19.5]) delayed after the initial accident (median 4 days [IQR 6]) also seems unfavourable.
This study establishes a link between the initial DCS severity and the long-term sequelae causing severe gait disorders and sphincter incontinence. Furthermore, this work suggests that certain detrimental treatment practices should be modified. During this field study, we also found that it was possible to reduce sequelae of these divers by offering them an individual programme of self-rehabilitation.

Copyright: This article is the copyright of the authors who grant Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine a non-exclusive licence to publish the article in electronic and other forms.