This week a diver approaches the DAN experts and asks the latest need-to-know question – what is Neurological Decompression Illness (DCI)? Read on to find out the risks and how the illness is treated…

DAN Answer

Divers with decompression illness (DCI) quite often have some damage to their nervous system. The signs of this are often vague and may go unrecognised, causing delays in treatment.

Accurate information regarding the injured diver’s neurological status will be useful to medical personnel in not only deciding the initial course of treatment but also in the effectiveness of treatment. Examination of an injured diver’s central nervous system soon after an accident may provide valuable information to the physician responsible for treatment.

To determine neurological DCI, tests are conducted on the divers. These include: orientation, eyes, face, hearing, swallowing reflex, tongue, muscle strength, sensory perception, as well as their balance and co-ordination.

Tests to the divers orientation, muscle strength and balance & co-ordination are most important and should be given priority if not all tests can be performed.

Some dive professionals learn basic neurological assessment but unless this is practiced and used often, the results may be unreliable. Although gross problems may be readily detectable, subtle changes may not be evident to an inexperienced assessor.

DAN Asia-Pacific conducts an On-Site Neurological Assessment Course suitable for recreational divers and dive professionals. To find out more visit the Training Section at

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