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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2008 Apr;104(4):986-90. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00641.2007. Epub 2008 Jan 24.

Pulmonary edema after competitive breath-hold diving.

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Heart and Lung Center, EB15, Lund Univ. Hospital, SE-221 85 Lund, Sweden.


During an international breath-hold diving competition, 19 of the participating divers volunteered for the present study, aimed at elucidating possible symptoms and signs of pulmonary edema after deep dives. Measurements included dynamic spirometry and pulse oximetry, and chest auscultation was performed on those with the most severe symptoms. After deep dives (25-75 m), 12 of the divers had signs of pulmonary edema. None had any symptoms or signs after shallow pool dives. For the whole group of 19 divers, average reductions in forced vital capacity (FVC) and forced expiratory volume in the first second (FEV(1)) were -9 and -12%, respectively, after deep dives compared with after pool dives. In addition, the average reduction in arterial oxygen saturation (Sa(O(2))) was -4% after the deep dives. In six divers, respiratory symptoms (including dyspnea, cough, fatigue, substernal chest pain or discomfort, and hemoptysis) were associated with aggravated deteriorations in the physiological variables (FVC: -16%; FEV(1): -27%; Sa(O(2)): -11%). This is the first study showing reduced spirometric performance and arterial hypoxemia as consequences of deep breath-hold diving, and we suggest that the observed changes are caused by diving-induced pulmonary edema. From the results of the present study, it must be concluded that the great depths reached by these elite apnea divers are associated with a risk of pulmonary edema.

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