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Diving Gas Embolism.


StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019-.
2019 Feb 24.

Author information

University of TN Health Science Center
University Medical Center/LSU Med Sch


Diving using an underwater breathing apparatus (UBA) of any type involves inspiration of compressed gas by the diver at pressures above normal surface pressure. Seawater is sufficiently denser than air such that one atmosphere (atm) of air is equivalent to 33 feet of seawater (FSW), meaning the diver can double their ambient pressure by descending only 33 feet. During any dive, a diver is subject to the limitations imposed by Boyles Law, which states that pressure and volume are inversely related. As pressure decreases, the volume will increase proportionally, which means that our same diver holding his breath and ascending from 33 feet of salt water would double his lung volume on return to the surface if that were anatomically possible without structural damage to the lungs. A diver who holds his or her breath and ascends from as little as 1 meter (approximately 3 feet) may cause an overpressurization sufficient to rupture lung alveoli and introduce gas into the surrounding tissues and/or blood vessels. [1] [2]This is referred to as pulmonary overinflation syndrome and results in one or more overexpansion injuries: pneumomediastinum, pneumothorax, subcutaneous emphysema, or arterial gas embolism.

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