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Occup Environ Med. 1997 Apr;54(4):247-53.

Correlation between 99Tcm-HMPAO-SPECT brain image and a history of decompression illness or extent of diving experience in commercial divers.

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Hyperbaric Research Unit, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen.

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  • Occup Environ Med 1997 Jul;54(7):527.



To explore the use of 99technetiumm-hexamethyl propylene amine oxime single photon computed tomography (HMPAO-SPECT) of the brain as a means of detecting nervous tissue damage in divers and to determine if there is any correlation between brain image and a diver's history of diving or decompression illness (DCI).


28 commercial divers with a history of DCI, 26 divers with no history of DCI, and 19 non-diving controls were examined with brain HMPAO-SPECT. Results were classified by observer assessment as normal (I) or as a pattern variants (II-V). The brain images of a subgroup of these divers (n = 44) and the controls (n = 17) were further analysed with a first order texture analysis technique based on a grey level histogram.


15 of 54 commercial divers (28%) were visually assessed as having HMPAO-SPECT images outside normal limits compared with 15.8% in appropriately identified non-diver control subjects. 18% of divers with a history of DCI were classified as having a pattern different from the normal image compared with 38% with no history of DCI. No association was established between the presence of a pattern variant from the normal image and history of DCI, diving, or other previous possible neurological insult. On texture analysis of the brain images, divers had a significantly lower mean grey level (MGL) than non-divers. Divers with a history of DCI (n = 22) had a significantly lower MGL when compared with divers with no history of DCI (n = 22). Divers with > 14 years professional diving or > 100 decompression days a year had a significantly lower MGL value.


Observer assessment of HMPAO-SPECT brain images can lead to disparity in results. Texture analysis of the brain images supplies both an objective and consistent method of measurement. A significant correlation was found between a low measure of MGL and a history of DCI. There was also an indication that diving itself had an effect on texture measurement, implying that it had caused subclinical nervous tissue damage.

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