Effects of successive air and nitrox dives on human vascular function

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2012 Jun;112(6):2131-7. doi: 10.1007/s00421-011-2187-6. Epub 2011 Oct 1.


SCUBA diving is regularly associated with asymptomatic changes in cardiac, pulmonary and vascular function. The aim of this study was to evaluate the changes in vascular/endothelial function following SCUBA diving and to assess the potential difference between two breathing gases: air and nitrox 36 (36% oxygen and 64% nitrogen). Ten divers performed two 3-day diving series (no-decompression dive to 18 m with 47 min bottom time with air and nitrox, respectively), with 2 weeks pause in between. Arterial/endothelial function was assessed using SphygmoCor and flow-mediated dilation measurements, and concentration of nitrite before and after diving was determined in venous blood. Production of nitrogen bubbles post-dive was assessed by ultrasonic determination of venous gas bubble grade. Significantly higher bubbling was found after all air dives as compared to nitrox dives. Pulse wave velocity increased slightly (~6%), significantly after both air and nitrox diving, indicating an increase in arterial stiffness. However, augmentation index became significantly more negative after diving indicating smaller wave reflection. There was a trend for post-dive reduction of FMD after air dives; however, only nitrox diving significantly reduced FMD. No significant differences in blood nitrite before and after the dives were found. We found that nitrox diving affects systemic/vascular function more profoundly than air diving by reducing FMD response, most likely due to higher oxygen load. Both air and nitrox dives increased arterial stiffness, but decreased wave reflection suggesting a decrease in peripheral resistance due to exercise during diving. These effects of nitrox and air diving were not followed by changes in plasma nitrite.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air
  • Cardiovascular Physiological Phenomena
  • Decompression
  • Diving / physiology*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiology
  • Gases / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Nitrites / blood
  • Nitrogen / metabolism*
  • Oxygen / metabolism*
  • Pulmonary Artery / metabolism
  • Pulmonary Artery / physiology*


  • Gases
  • Nitrites
  • nitrox
  • Nitrogen
  • Oxygen