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Hypobaric decompression prebreathe requirements and breathing environmentTo reduce incidence of decompression sickness (DCS), prebreathing 100 percent oxygen to denitrogenate is required prior to hypobaric decompressions from a sea level pressure breathing environment to pressures lower than 350 mm Hg (20,000 ft; 6.8 psia). The tissue ratio (TR) of such exposures equals or exceeds 1.7; TR being the tissue nitrogen pressure prior to decompression divided by the total pressure after decompression (((0.781)(14.697))/6.758). Designing pressure suits capable of greater pressure differentials, lower TR's, and procedures which limit the potential for DCS occurrence would enhance operational efficiency. The current 10.2 psia stage decompression prior to extravehicular activity (EVA) from the Shuttle in the 100 percent oxygen, 4.3 psia suit, results in a TR of 1.65 and has proven to be relatively free of DCS. Our recent study of zero-prebreathe decompressions to 6.8 psia breathing 100 percent oxygen (TR = 1.66) also resulted in no DCS (N = 10). The level of severe, Spencer Grades 3 or 4, venous gas emboli (VGE) increased from 0 percent at 9.5 psia to 40 percent at 6.8 psia yielding a Probit curve of VGE risk for the 51 male subjects who participated in these recent studies. Earlier, analogous decompressions using a 50 percent oxygen, 50 percent nitrogen breathing mixture resulted in one case of DCS and significantly higher levels of severe VGE, e.g., at 7.8 psia, the mixed gas breathing environment resulted in a 56 percent incidence of severe VGE versus 10 percent with use of 100 percent oxygen. The report of this study recommended use of 100 percent oxygen during zero-prebreathe exposure to 6.8 psia if such a suit could be developed. For future, long-term missions, we suggest study of the effects of decompression over several days to a breathing environment of 150 mmHg O2 and approximately 52 mmHg He as a means of eliminating DCS and VGE hazards during subsequent excursions. Once physiologically adapted to a 4 psia vehicle, base, or space station segment, crew members could use greatly simplified EVA suits with greater mobility and no prebreathe requirement.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Webb, James T. (Krug Life Sciences, Inc. San Antonio, TX, United States)
Pilmanis, Andrew A. (Aerospace Medical Research Labs. Brooks AFB, TX., United States)
Date Acquired
September 6, 2013
Publication Date
February 1, 1993
Publication Information
Publication: NASA. Johnson Space Center, Sixth Annual Workshop on Space Operations Applications and Research (SOAR 1992), Volume 2
Subject Category
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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IDRelationTitle19940007055Analytic PrimarySixth Annual Workshop on Space Operations Applications and Research (SOAR 1992), volume 2