Patent foramen ovale and decompression sickness in divers

Lancet. 1989 Mar 11;1(8637):513-4. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(89)90064-0.


30 patients with a history of decompression sickness were examined for the presence of patent foramen ovale by bubble contrast, two-dimensional echocardiography and colour flow doppler imaging. With bubble contrast, 11 (37%) of the patients had right-to-left shunting through a patent foramen ovale during spontaneous breathing. 61% of a subset of 18 patients with serious signs and symptoms had shunting. This number was significantly higher than the 5% prevalence seen with the same diagnostic technique in 176 healthy volunteers. The presence of patent foramen ovale seems to be a risk factor for the development of decompression sickness in divers.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Decompression Sickness / etiology*
  • Diving / adverse effects*
  • Echocardiography
  • Echocardiography, Doppler
  • Female
  • Heart Septal Defects, Atrial / complications*
  • Heart Septal Defects, Atrial / diagnosis
  • Heart Septal Defects, Atrial / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Valsalva Maneuver