Journal of Applied Physiology

A new gas lesion syndrome in man, induced by "isobaric gas counterdiffusion"

C. J. Lambertsen, J. Idicula


Normal men have been found to develop pruritis and gas bubble lesions in the skin, and disruption of vestibular function, when breathing nitrogen or neon with oxygen while surrounded by helium at increased ambient pressure. This phenomenon, which occurs at stable ambient pressures, at 1 or many ATA, has been designated the “isobaric gas counterdiffusion syndrome.” In a series of analyses and experiments in vivo and in vitro the cause of the syndrome has been established as due to gas accumulation and development of gas bubbles in tissues as a result of differences in selective diffusivities, for various respired and ambient gases, in the tissue substances between capillary blood and the surrounding atmosphere. The phenomenon here described in man is an initial stage of a process shown later in animals to progress to continuous, massive, lethal, intravascular gas embolization.