The occurrence of decompression sickness in animals and humans is characterized by the extreme variability of individual response. Nevertheless, models and analyses of decompression results have generally used a critical value approach to separate safe and unsafe decompression procedures. Application of the principle of maximum likelihood provides a formal and consistent way to quantify decompression risk and to apply models to data on decompression outcome. By use of the maximum likelihood principle, a number of models were fit to data from dose-response and maximum pressure-reduction experiments with both rats and men. Several different formulations of two- and three-parameter models described the data well. In addition to summarizing data sets, the analyses provide a way to maximize the value of experimental observations, test theoretical predictions, estimate uncertainty in conclusions, and recommend safe practices.
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