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Undersea Biomed Res. 1986 Jun;13(2):193-223.

Central nervous system oxygen toxicity in closed circuit scuba divers II.


Central nervous system oxygen toxicity is currently the limiting factor in underwater swimming/diving operations using closed-circuit oxygen equipment. A dive series was conducted at the Navy Experimental Diving Unit in Panama City, FL, to determine whether these limits can be safely extended and also to evaluate the feasibility of making excursions to increased depth after a previous transit at a shallower depth for various lengths of time. A total of 465 man-dives were conducted on 14 different experimental profiles. In all, 33 episodes of oxygen toxicity were encountered, including 2 convulsions. Symptoms were classified as probable, definite, or convulsion. Findings were as follows: symptom classification is a useful tool in evaluating symptoms of oxygen toxicity; safe exposure limits should generally be adjusted only as a result of definite symptoms or convulsions; the following single-depth dive limits are proposed: 20 fsw (6.1 msw)--240 min, 25 fsw (7.6 msw)--240 min, 30 fsw (9.1 msw)--80 min, 35 fsw (10.7 msw)--25 min, 40 fsw (12.2 msw)--15 min, 50 fsw (15.2 msw)--10 min; a pre-exposure of up to 4 h at 20 fsw causes only a slight increase in the probability of an oxygen toxicity symptom on subsequent downward excursions; a pre-exposure depth of 25 fsw will have a more adverse effect on subsequent excursions than will 20 fsw; a return to 20 fsw for periods of 95-110 min seems to provide an adequate recovery period from an earlier excursion and enables a second excursion to be taken without additional hazard; nausea was the most commonly noted symptom of oxygen toxicity, followed by muscle twitching and dizziness; dives on which oxygen toxicity episodes were noted had a more rapid rate of core temperature cooling than dives without toxicity episodes; several divers who had passed the U.S. Navy Oxygen Tolerance Test were observed to be reproducibly more susceptible to oxygen toxicity than the other experimental divers.

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