Incidence of cardiac arrhythmias and left ventricular hypertrophy in recreational scuba divers

Diving Hyperb Med. 2021 Jun 30;51(2):190-198. doi: 10.28920/dhm51.2.190-198.


Introduction: The aims of this study were to investigate the potential impact of age, sex and body mass index (BMI) upon the incidence of arrhythmias pre- and post- diving, and to identify the prevalence of left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH) in older recreational divers.

Methods: Divers aged ≥ 40 years participating in group dive trips had ECG rhythm and echocardiograph recordings before and after diving. Arrhythmias were confirmed by an experienced human reader. LVH was identified by two-dimensional echocardiography. Weighted (0.5 fractional) values were used to account for participation by seven divers in 14 trips.

Results: Seventy-seven divers undertook 84 dive trips and recorded 677 dives. Among divers with no pre-trip arrhythmias (n = 55), we observed that 6.5 (12%) recorded post-trip arrhythmias and the median increase was 1.0 arrhythmia. In divers with pre-trip arrhythmias, 14.5 had a median of 1.0 fewer post-trip arrhythmias, 2.0 had no change and 5.5 had a median of 16.0 greater. Age, but neither sex nor BMI, was associated with change in the number of arrhythmias before and after dive trips (P = 0.02). The relative risk for experiencing a change in the frequency of arrhythmias after a diver trip, was 2.1 for each additional 10 years of age (95% CI 1.1, 4.0). Of the 60 divers with imaging of their heart, five had left ventricular hypertrophy.

Conclusions: We observed a higher than expected prevalence of arrhythmias. Divers with pre-trip arrhythmias tended to be older than divers without pre-trip arrhythmias (P = 0.02). The prevalence of LVH in our cohort was one quarter of that found post-mortem in scuba fatalities.

Keywords: Cardiovascular; Diving research; Echocardiography; Health status; Risk factors; Scuba; Sudden cardiac death.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / epidemiology
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / etiology
  • Diving* / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Hypertrophy, Left Ventricular* / diagnostic imaging
  • Hypertrophy, Left Ventricular* / epidemiology
  • Incidence
  • Prevalence