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First Aid Management For Suspected Decompression Illness (DCI)


In an emergency, phone 0800 4 DES 111 (0800 4337 111)


  1. Have a high index of suspicion. DCI can present as a wide variety of symptoms.
  2. Initiate treatment as soon as possible.
  3. Standard ABC’s.
  4. Keep unnecessary movement to a minimum. Ideally the patient should remain lying flat.
  5. Administer high flow  Oxygen via mask (as close to 100% O2 as possible).
  6. Insert IV line – 1000 mLs Normal Saline q4h.
  7. Monitor urine output. An indwelling catheter may be required if spinal DCI is suspected.
  8. Obtain a Dive History – following information is required:
    • Depth
    • Duration
    • Surface Intervals
    • Number of Dives
    • Any significant events during the dive such as equipment failures, uncontrolled  ascents, multiple ascents
    • Diving at altitude (lake diving)?
    • Altitude ascent post diving
    • Past history of DCI
    • The experience of the diver
  9. Contact DES (Diver Emergency Service) for advice on 0800 4 DES 111 (0800 4 337 111)
  10. Evacuate to the Auckland’s Navy Hospital Hyperbaric Unit or Christchurch Hospital Hyperbaric Medicine Unit if required by:
    • Pressurised Fix Wing (300m Cabin Pressure) aircraft
    • Helicopter
    • Road (below 1000 ft altitude)

Permanent link to this article: http://nzu.org.nz/safety-medical/first-aid-management-for-suspected-decompression-illness-dci/