Objective: The growing popularity of diving sport has resulted in more diving accidents. Our objective was to characterize Red Sea divers requiring recompression treatment in Eilat, to recognize 23-year trends of diving accidents, and to facilitate appropriate administrative and treatment tools for diving accident in this area.
Design: Retrospective, uncontrolled study.
Setting: Recompression unit at a Red Sea medical center.
Patients: Charts of all divers treated at Eilat's recompression chamber from October 1976 to December 1999 were reviewed.
Interventions: Recompression treatment.
Results: During this period, annual crude numbers increased 5-fold, and a total of 453 patients were treated. Of them, 68% were Israelis and 32% tourists; 76% were males and 23% females; and 21.6% were diving buddies of injured divers (omitted decompression). The mean diving depth causing the accident was 30.2 +/- 13.1 m, and >50% of accidents occurred between 11 and 30 m. Over 42% suffered from decompression sickness (DCS) type 2, 26% from DCS type 1, and 7% from barotraumas. Women, unlike men, presented predominantly DCS type 2 (54% vs. 39%; P = 0.01) and sustained DCS at shallower waters (25.2 +/- 9.1 m) than men (31.8 +/- 13.8 m; P < 0.0001). Primarily, treatment followed recompression in alternating cycles of oxygen and air as stipulated in US Navy Tables 5 (18.1%) and 6 (37.5%). The 48-hour case fatality rate was 0.09%.
Conclusions: This large survey of open sea diving accidents accentuated the need for a national registry of diving accidents and a national database of diving activities.