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Medical Management and Risk Reduction of the Cardiovascular Effects of Underwater Diving

[ Vol. 16 , Issue. 4 ]

Author(s):

Thomas F. Whayne*   Pages 344 - 354 ( 11 )

Abstract:


Undersea diving is a sport and commercial industry. Knowledge of potential problems began with Caisson disease or “the bends”, first identified with compressed air in the construction of tunnels under rivers in the 19th century. Subsequently, there was the commercially used old-fashioned diving helmet attached to a suit, with compressed air pumped down from the surface. Breathhold diving, with no supplementary source of air or other breathing mixture, is also a sport as well as a commercial fishing tool in some parts of the world. There has been an evolution to self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA) diving with major involvement as a recreational sport but also of major commercial importance. Knowledge of the physiology and cardiovascular plus other medical problems associated with the various forms of diving have evolved extensively. The major medical catastrophes of SCUBA diving are air embolism and decompression sickness (DCS). Understanding of the essential referral to a hyperbaric recompression chamber for these problems is critical, as well as immediate measures until that recompression is achieved. These include the administration of 100% oxygen and rehydration with intravenous normal saline. Undersea diving continues to expand, especially as a sport, and a basic understanding of the associated preventive and emergency medicine will decrease complications and save lives.

Keywords:

Air embolus, Breathhold diving, decompression sickness, dive reflex, hyperbaric medicine, self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA).

Affiliation:

Department of Medicine (Cardiology), Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Gill Heart and Vascular Institute, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506

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