17 May 2002
Australian research has shown that decompression sickness can occur even in shallow-water dives, particularly those involving multiple ascents.
Dr David Griffiths, director of the hyperbaric medicine unit at Townsville Hospital, said a review of presentations defied common wisdom that decompression sickness was unlikely in sea dives of less than 10 metres.
The study, presented recently at the annual meeting of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists in Brisbane, reviewed 350 decompression sickness presentations at 4 major hyperbaric units over 12 months.
Excluding dives involving cerebral arterial gas embolism, the review found that 10 per cent of presentations involved seawater dives to 8 metres or less.
Dr Griffiths' analysis of the shallow dive profiles identified a range of risk factors important for prevention and diagnosis.
'We found a common feature in the profiles was multiple ascents — having a whole swag of dives with frequent popping up to the surface,' Dr Griffiths said.
'Flying also precipitates decompression illness, and we found people who thought their dive was trivial then flew in a light aircraft.'
Divers are recommended to delay flying for 12 to 24 hours after compressed air dives.
The shallowest dive reviewed was to just 3.8 metres, but involved particularly stressful conditions. The experienced diver, who presented to his GP believing his illness and disorientation were due to influenza, had made multiple ascents in a big swell and then boarded a plane.
Last Reviewed: 16 May 2002