Magnetic resonance signal abnormalities and neuropsychological deficits in elderly compressed-air divers

Eur Neurol. 1999;42(4):194-9. doi: 10.1159/000008106.


We investigated the association between MR signal abnormalities of the central nervous system, neuropsychologic performance and exposure indices in 20 experienced elderly compressed-air divers who had no history of neurological decompression illness (DCI). Results of MRI of the brain and psychometric testing were compared with 20 matched healthy commercial employees who never dived: 60% of the divers and 45% of the controls had hyperintense MR abnormalities. Among divers, both the number and the size of abnormalities correlated with hours diving in the deep air-diving range of 40-60 m (p < 0.05). Divers' mental flexibility and visual tracking performance were decreased in comparison with controls (p < 0.05 and p < 0.01). Divers thus are at risk of detrimental long-term effects of compressed-air diving on the central nervous system even in the absence of a history of neurological DCI.

MeSH terms

  • Barotrauma / complications*
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / diagnosis
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / etiology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cognition*
  • Decompression Sickness / complications
  • Diving / adverse effects*
  • Diving / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Medical History Taking
  • Memory*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Statistics, Nonparametric