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Decompression sickness and aseptic necrosis of bone: Investigations carried out during and after the construction of the Tyne Road Tunnel (1962-66)

Report of Decompression Sickness Panel, Medical Research Council1

Abstract

Report of Decompression Sickness Panel, Medical Research Council (1971). Brit. J. industr. Med., 28, 1-21. Decompression sickness and aseptic necrosis of bone: Investigations carried out during and after the construction of the Tyne Road Tunnel (1962-66). This paper describes investigations into the health of compressed air workers during and after the construction of a road tunnel under the River Tyne. Altogether 641 men were exposed to the compressed air environment over a period of approximately 31 months. The maximum working pressure was 42 psig (289·6 kN/m2), and the overall decompression sickness rate for work at pressures of 18 psig (124·1 kN/m2) and above was 2%.

Radiological examination of the chest was carried out on 183 men to detect lung cysts but only one was found. Thus lung cysts were not shown to be a common factor in the causation of decompression sickness but the possibility of small sub-radiological collections of trapped air being involved was not excluded.

Radiological examinations of the shoulders, hips and knee joints were carried out on 171 men. There was evidence of aseptic necrosis in one or more bones of 44 men (26%). Fifteen of the men with definite lesions of aseptic necrosis of bone and 7 of the men with suspected lesions had never worked in compressed air before this contract. The remaining 14 men with definite lesions and the 8 with suspected lesions had worked elsewhere in compressed air prior to this contract, but a definite lesion in one of these men and a suspected lesion in another can almost certainly be attributed to their work in compressed air on this contract.

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Report of Decompression Sickness Panel, Medical Research Council1

Footnotes

  • 1 Medical Research Council Decompression Sickness Panel, 1970

    Professor D. N. Walder, Professor R. Barnes, Dr. A. H. Baynes, Dr. F. Campbell-Golding, Dr. M. J. Catton, Dr. P. J. Chapman, Dr. D. B. Coltman, Dr. J. K. Davidson, Dr. J. M. Davidson, Surgeon Commander D. H. Elliott, R.N., Mr. A. Evans, Dr. P. D. Griffiths, Commander L. D. Hamlyn, R.N.(Retd), Dr. H. V. Hempleman, Mr. D. E. Lennard, Dr. R. I. McCallum, Squadron Leader A. J. F. Macmillan, R.A.F., Dr. J. Miller, Professor W. D. M. Paton, Mr. K. Tomasin, Mr. V. B. Thickett

    Dr. Brain McStay, the Medical Officer to the Tunnel Contract, was a member of the Panel from November 1962 to September 1965 and was reponsible for the collection of the basic data.

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