Selected scientific publications on diving medicine and physiology.

Acupuncture effect on thermal tolerance and electrical pain threshold: a randomised controlled trial
Amand M, Nguyen-Huu F, Balestra C.

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to test whether acupuncture could modify the threshold of tolerance to thermal and electrical stimuli. METHODS: A randomised placebo-controlled single-blind trial was conducted in 36 healthy volunteers randomly distributed to control (no treatment), conventional acupuncture and sham acupuncture groups. The subjects were blind to the group allocation. The authors measured before and after treatment the pain threshold with the Painmatcher (Cefar Medical AB, Lund, Sweden) and the cold tolerance with the cold pressor test, together with the Visual Analogue Scale pain score.

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Correlation between Patent Foramen Ovale, Cerebral "Lesions" and Neuropsychometric Testing in Experienced Sports Divers: Does Diving Damage the Brain?
Balestra C, Germonpré P.

SCUBA diving exposes divers to decompression sickness (DCS). There has been considerable debate whether divers with a Patent Foramen Ovale of the heart have a higher risk of DCS because of the possible right-to-left shunt of venous decompression bubbles into the arterial circulation. Symptomatic neurological DCS has been shown to cause permanent damage to brain and spinal cord tissue; it has been suggested that divers with PFO may be at higher risk of developing subclinical brain lesions because of repeated asymptomatic embolization of decompression-induced nitrogen bubbles...

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Prevalence of acute respiratory symptoms in breath-hold divers
Cialoni D, Sponsiello N, Marabotti C, Marroni A, Pieri M, Maggiorelli F, Tonerini M, Frammartino B.

INTRODUCTION: After repetitive deep dives, breath-hold divers are often affected by a syndrome characterized by typical symptoms such as cough, sensation of chest constriction, blood-striated expectorate (hemoptysis) and, rarely, an overt acute pulmonary edema syndrome, often together with various degrees of dyspnea. The aim of this work is an epidemiological investigation to evaluate the prevalence of acute respiratory symptoms (ARS) in breath-hold divers (BHDs) in practicing breath-hold diving.

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Risk of decompression illness among 230 divers in relation to the presence and size of patent foramen ovale
Germonpre P, Balestra C.

BACKGROUND: The risk of developing decompression illness (DCI) in divers with a patent foramen ovale (PFO) has not been directly determined so far; neither has it been assessed in relation to the PFO's size. METHODS :In 230 scuba divers (age 39+/-8 years), contrast trans-oesophageal echocardiography (TEE) was performed for the detection and size grading (0-3) of PFO. Prior to TEE, the study individuals answered a detailed questionnaire about their health status and about their diving habits and accidents. For inclusion into the study, > or =200 dives and strict adherence to decompression tables were required. RESULTS: Sixty-three divers (27%) had a PFO. Overall, the absolute risk of suffering a DCI event was 2.5 per 10(4) dives. There were 18 divers (29%) with, and 10 divers (6%) without, PFO who had experienced > or =1 major DCI events P=0.016. In the group with PFO, the incidence per 10(4) dives of a major DCI, a DCI lasting longer than 24 h and of being treated in a decompression chamber amounted to 5.1 (median 0, interquartile range [IQR] 0-10.0), 1.9 (median 0, IQR 0-4.0) and 3.6 (median 0, IQR 0-9.8), respectively and was 4.8-12.9-fold higher than in the group without PFO (P<0.001). The risk of suffering a major DCI, of a DCI lasting longer than 24 h and of being treated by recompression increased with rising PFO size. CONCLUSION: The presence of a PFO is related to a low absolute risk of suffering five major DCI events per 10(4) dives, the odds of which is five times as high as in divers without PFO. The risk of suffering a major DCI parallels PFO size.

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