Diving physiopathology: the end of certainties? Food for thought

Minerva Anestesiol. 2019 Oct;85(10):1129-1137. doi: 10.23736/S0375-9393.19.13618-8. Epub 2019 Jun 20.


Our understanding of decompression physiopathology has slowly improved during this last decade and some uncertainties have disappeared. A better understanding of anatomy and functional aspects of patent foramen ovale (PFO) have slowly resulted in a more liberal approach toward the medical fitness to dive for those bearing a PFO. Circulating vascular gas emboli (VGE) are considered the key actors in development of decompression sickness and can be considered as markers of decompression stress indicating induction of pathophysiological processes not necessarily leading to occurrence of disease symptoms. During the last decade, it has appeared possible to influence post-dive VGE by a so-called "preconditioning" as a pre-dive denitrogenation, exercise or some pharmacological agents. In the text we have deeply examined all the scientific evidence about this complicated but challenging theme. Finally, the role of the "normobaric oxygen paradox" has been clarified and it is not surprising that it could be involved in neuroprotection and cardioprotection. However, the best level of inspired oxygen and the exact time frame to achieve optimal effect is still not known. The aim of this paper was to reflect upon the most actual uncertainties and distil out of them a coherent, balanced advice towards the researchers involved in gas-bubbles-related pathologies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Decompression Sickness / physiopathology*
  • Decompression Sickness / therapy*
  • Diving*
  • Embolism, Air
  • Foramen Ovale, Patent / pathology
  • Humans
  • Oxygen Inhalation Therapy