The diving reflex used to treat paroxysmal atrial tachycardia

Lancet. 1975 Jan 4;1(7897):12-4. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(75)92374-0.


Induction of the diving reflex, by immersion of the face in cold water (2 degrees C) while the breath was held, converted paroxysmal atrial tachycardia to sinus rhythm within 15-35 seconds in seven patients (aged 22-66). Four had histories of heart attacks that had previously required vasopressor therapy, and two had been digitalised; three had no history of prior paroxysmal atrial tachycardia or heart-disease. The reported procedure, which is convenient, non-invasive, and can be self administered by the patient after brief instruction, may offer a useful adjunct to carotid-sinus massage and intravenous infusion of vasopressors for the treatment of paroxysmal atrial tachycardia.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Apnea / physiopathology
  • Carotid Sinus
  • Cold Temperature*
  • Diving*
  • Face*
  • Female
  • Heart / physiology
  • Heart Conduction System / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Immersion*
  • Male
  • Massage
  • Middle Aged
  • Reflex*
  • Respiration
  • Tachycardia, Paroxysmal / drug therapy
  • Tachycardia, Paroxysmal / physiopathology
  • Tachycardia, Paroxysmal / therapy*
  • Time Factors
  • Vagus Nerve / physiopathology
  • Vasoconstrictor Agents / therapeutic use


  • Vasoconstrictor Agents