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Diving Hyperb Med. 2012 Sep;42(3):137-45.

A review of 17 years of telephone calls to the Australian Diver Emergency Service (DES).

Author information

  • 1Divers Emergency Service and Medical Director at the Hyperbaric Medicine Unit, Royal Adelaide Hospital, Adelaide SA 5034, Australia. david.wilkinson@health.sa.gov.au



The Diver Emergency Service (DES) in Australia provides specialised medical advice on diving incidents 24 hours a day to divers, dive operators, families and health professionals. It is operated from the Hyperbaric Medicine Unit of the Royal Adelaide Hospital where the physician-on-call also carries the DES phone (1800-088200 or +61-8-8212-9242).


Data from calls to the service have been compiled into a computer database since 1991. Calls for the 17 years from 1991 through 2007 were analysed.


A total of 6,083 calls were logged, an average of 358 calls a year. Calls from Queensland and New South Wales each accounted for 25% of calls. Calls originating from outside Australia have been increasing and now make up 25% of calls. The diver themselves initiated the call 50% of the time and 66% of the calls were about male divers. The age range of divers was 12 to 95 years old. The mean age has increased from 30 to 36 years, with a greater proportion of calls from divers aged 50 years or older (from 2% to 14%). The largest group of calls (37%) related to whether symptoms might be the result of decompression illness (DCI). DCI was considered to be the probable diagnosis in 17% of calls, and possible in a further 12%. Other common findings were barotrauma (11%) and questions regarding fitness to dive (15%). Older divers were more likely to call in relation to a medical problem.


Interpretation of these data is qualitative but the prolonged collection period of 17 years allows some consideration of trends as to who calls the DES and why.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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