Flying After Recompression Treatment

DAN conducted an online survey of divers who were recompressed for decompression illness (DCI) within the past five years and then flew in an airplane to try to answer “How long should you wait to fly after recompression therapy?

This study was completed in 2004.

In winter 2003 and spring of 2004, DAN conducted an online survey of divers who were recompressed for decompression illness (DCI) within the past five years and then travelled in an airplane. Flying after diving is a recognized DCI risk factor. Divers, who are treated for DCI with recompression therapy in locations far from home, must fly home and potentially face additional problems from DCI on those flights. It is commonly acknowledged, that one can limit the risk of relapse by waiting a certain length of time after recompression, but to this point, the safe interval to wait had not been determined. This study tried to answer the question how long one should wait to fly after recompression therapy.

Three hundred and ten divers responded to the online DAN survey. After a careful reading of the comments, a diagnosis of DCI was considered questionable in 30 cases. These cases were removed from further consideration, leaving 280 cases for analysis. Only 70 (25 percent) of the 310 respondents indicated that a specific wait time before flying had been suggested by their treating chambers. The recommended wait time before flying after recompression therapy ranged from 15 to 2,160 hours (90 days). Two hundred of the 280 did not fly after treatment and, of these, 38.5 percent reported a relapse of symptoms. Of the 80 who did fly after treatment, 30 percent reported having relapsed. This difference was not statistically significant. There were no significant differences between divers who reported relapse and those who did not. A relapse rate of 38.5 percent for non-flying after treatment was an order of magnitude greater than the DAN chamber survey, where 12 of 229 non-flying cases relapsed (3.6 percent), and about four times greater than the 9 percent relapse rate found in the Uguccioni study (Uguccioni 1998).

The high relapse rate in the survey population might be explained by the motivations for answering an anonymous, self-selected survey. When reporting data from a self-selected survey, it is important to acknowledge that the results represent only those individuals who chose to respond. Frequently, respondents to a self-selected survey have a strong opinion about the issue being discussed, and they tailor their response in an attempt to affect the survey’s outcome.

Additional Reading and References


  • You can download the following related workshop and conference proceedings in the DAN Publication Library:
    • 2005 Remote Management of Mild or Marginal DCI
    • 2002 Flying After Recreational Diving

Conference Contributions