[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
May 9, 1977

High Altitude Illness-Reply

JAMA. 1977;237(19):2038. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03270460024013

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


In Reply.—  Dr Younes' question is often asked. Although it is true there are changes in size or shape of the body during decompression, these are very small because liquids (about 95% of the body) are almost incompressible. What changes do occur are caused by expanding gases; intestinal gases and those dissolved in blood or interstitial fluid expand but are rapidly eliminated, while those trapped in nasal sinuses, the inner ear, or beneath dental fillings may cause trouble.When surfacing, deep-sea divers may be decompressed from 10 atm (or more) to 1 atm; microemboli of nitrogen appear if decompression is too rapid, causing "bends." These may occur in aviators who are decompressed very rapidly from 1 to 0.5 or 0.33 atm, but such bubbles probably don't form during the slower ascents of mountaineers.Since ambient pressure is exerted both within and without all tissues, it is unlikely that it plays