Effect of oxygen breathing on micro oxygen bubbles in nitrogen-depleted rat adipose tissue at sea level and 25 kPa altitude exposures

Thomas Randsoe, Ole Hyldegaard

5 Citations (Scopus)


The standard treatment of altitude decompression sickness (aDCS) caused by nitrogen bubble formation is oxygen breathing and recompression. However, micro air bubbles (containing 79% nitrogen), injected into adipose tissue, grow and stabilize at 25 kPa regardless of continued oxygen breathing and the tissue nitrogen pressure. To quantify the contribution of oxygen to bubble growth at altitude, micro oxygen bubbles (containing 0% nitrogen) were injected into the adipose tissue of rats depleted from nitrogen by means of preoxygenation (fraction of inspired oxygen = 1.0; 100%) and the bubbles studied at 101.3 kPa (sea level) or at 25 kPa altitude exposures during continued oxygen breathing. In keeping with previous observations and bubble kinetic models, we hypothesize that oxygen breathing may contribute to oxygen bubble growth at altitude. Anesthetized rats were exposed to 3 h of oxygen prebreathing at 101.3 kPa (sea level). Micro oxygen bubbles of 500-800 nl were then injected into the exposed abdominal adipose tissue. The oxygen bubbles were studied for up to 3.5 h during continued oxygen breathing at either 101.3 or 25 kPa ambient pressures. At 101.3 kPa, all bubbles shrank consistently until they disappeared from view at a net disappearance rate (0.02 mm(2) × min(-1)) significantly faster than for similar bubbles at 25 kPa altitude (0.01 mm(2) × min(-1)). At 25 kPa, most bubbles initially grew for 2-40 min, after which they shrank and disappeared. Four bubbles did not disappear while at 25 kPa. The results support bubble kinetic models based on Fick's first law of diffusion, Boyles law, and the oxygen window effect, predicting that oxygen contributes more to bubble volume and growth during hypobaric conditions. As the effect of oxygen increases, the lower the ambient pressure. The results indicate that recompression is instrumental in the treatment of aDCS.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)426-33
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Adipose Tissue
  • Altitude Sickness
  • Animals
  • Decompression Sickness
  • Diffusion
  • Female
  • Oxygen
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Respiration


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