Various clinical terms have emerged in an ongoing effort to describe and classify DI. These have ranged from descriptions of a limited number of distinct clinical syndromes (e.g., the "bends", "chokes" and "staggers"); a presumptive assignment of etiology and severity (e.g., type I decompression sickness and arterial gas embolism); and the systematic capture of descriptive clinical and causal factors associated with the condition (e.g., decompression illness or dysbarism, and gas bubble illness). Not only have these terms proven to be ambiguous, but they have been applied inconsistently and have introduced many linguistic challenges (e.g., the differentiation between illness and sickness).

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