Central nervous system lesions and cervical disc herniations in amateur divers

Lancet. 1995 Jun 3;345(8962):1403-5. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(95)92598-8.


Permanent neuropsychological changes such as memory disturbances and depression have been found in professional divers, even in those who have never had decompression sickness. The changes are probably the result of intravascular gas bubbles insufficient to cause acute symptoms. We examined amateur divers with long histories of self-contained underwater breathing apparatus diving by magnetic resonance imaging and compared them with normal controls. Hyperintense lesions of the subcortical cerebral white matter and degenerative changes of the cervical disks were significantly more common in the divers. 27 of 52 divers had a total of 86 focal hyperintensities versus 10 of 50 controls with 14 focal hyperintensities (p < 0.01). 32 divers had at least one degenerated intravertebral disc versus 9 controls (p < 0.0001). These results suggest that amateur divers are at risk of accumulating lesions in the central nervous system and in cartilage.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Barotrauma / pathology
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Cervical Vertebrae / injuries*
  • Diving / injuries*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / etiology*
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / pathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Spinal Cord / pathology*