Objectives: Pulmonary oedema in self-contained underwater breathing apparatus diving is an accident whose risk factors, conditions of occurrence and incidence are not well-known. The aim of this study was to evaluate the frequency, the risk factors and the evolution of this accident.
Study design: Retrospective case study and prospective frequency study.
Patients and methods: Study covering the Brittany region and performed in two steps with distinct objectives: a review of cases diagnosed between 2002 and 2007, and a one-year study of cases reported by emergency physicians. Diagnosis was based on the history, a respiratory distress, auscultation and radiologic features.
Results: Nineteen cases were reported, of which one was recurrent. The mean age of patients was 49 years. Divers without heart disease were involved, as well as divers with hypertension (eight cases) or valve abnormalities (three cases). Stress and/or physical exertion were involved. Dyspnoea, cough and haemoptysis were the most common symptoms; in addition, two cases of cardiac arrest and three of loss of consciousness were observed. Chest radiography was unsensitive (normal in four cases), contrasting with abnormal thoracic CT scan in all cases. Symptoms resolved rapidly with oxygen, except for two divers who died. We identified five cases over one year, one of which lethal.
Conclusion: This accident is not a rare event and may have serious consequences. Oldest divers submitted to stress and/or effort are at higher risk.