Pulmonary oedema in healthy SCUBA divers: new physiopathological pathways

Clin Physiol Funct Imaging. 2010 May;30(3):181-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-097X.2010.00922.x. Epub 2010 Feb 4.


Introduction: The mechanism of immersion pulmonary oedema occurring in healthy divers is a matter of debate. Among consecutive injured divers admitted to our hyperbaric centre, we analysed prospective data about pulmonary oedema.

Method: A total of 22 divers suffering from immersion pulmonary oedema without cardiac disease were included. The occurrence of events was compared to the diving conditions as assessed by diving-computer. Each patient underwent a clinical examination, laboratory tests, thoracic CT scan and echocardiography.

Results: The median age was 49 years, with a higher proportion of women, in comparison with the data of the French diving federation. The common feature was the occurrence of respiratory symptoms during the ascent after median dive duration of 29 min with strenuous exercise and/or psychological stress. Most of the dives were deep (37 msw-121 fsw) in cool water (15 degrees C-59 degrees F). The average inspired oxygen partial pressure was 0.99 bar. Progression was rapidly favourable, and the medical check-up after clinical recovery was normal.

Conclusion: Immersion, body cooling, hyperoxia, increased hydrostatic pressure and strenuous exercise likely combine to induce pulmonary oedema in patients without cardiac disease. This study underlines new physiopathological tracks related to the frequent occurrence of symptoms noticed in the last part of the ascent and a higher incidence in women.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Diving / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pulmonary Edema / etiology*
  • Pulmonary Edema / physiopathology*
  • Reference Values
  • Sex Factors