open access

Vol 63, No 1 (2012)
ORIGINAL ARTICLES
Submitted: 2013-02-18
Published online: 2012-06-05
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Extremely deep recreational dives: the risk for carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) retention and high pressure neurological syndrome (HPNS)

Jacek Kot
International Maritime Health 2012;63(1):49-55.

open access

Vol 63, No 1 (2012)
ORIGINAL ARTICLES
Submitted: 2013-02-18
Published online: 2012-06-05

Abstract

Clear differences between professional and recreational deep diving are disappearing, at least when taking into account the types of breathing mixtures (oxygen, nitrox, heliox, and trimix) and range of dive parameters (depth and time). Training of recreational deep divers is conducted at depths of 120–150 metres and some divers dive to 180–200 metres using the same diving techniques. Extremely deep recreational divers go to depths of more than 200 metres, at which depths the physical and chemical properties of breathing gases create some physiological restrictions already known from professional deep diving. One risk is carbon dioxide retention due to limitation of lung ventilation caused by the high density of breathing gas mixture at great depths. This effect can be amplified by the introduction of the additional work of breathing if there is significant external resistance caused by a breathing device. The other risk for deep divers is High Pressure Neurological Syndrome (HPNS) caused by a direct compression effect, presumably on the lipid component of cell membranes of the central nervous system. In deep professional diving, divers use a mixture of helium and oxygen to decrease gas density, and nitrogen is used only in some cases for decreasing the signs and symptoms of HPNS. The same approach with decreasing the nitrogen content in the breathing mixture can also be observed nowadays in deep recreational diving. Moreover, in extremely deep professional diving, hydrogen has been used successfully both for decreasing the density of the breathing gas mixture and amelioration of HPNS signs and symptoms. It is fair to assume that the use of hydrogen will be soon “re-invented” by extremely deep recreational divers. So the scope of modern diving medicine for recreational divers should be expanded also to cover these problems, which previously were assigned exclusively to professional and military divers.

Abstract

Clear differences between professional and recreational deep diving are disappearing, at least when taking into account the types of breathing mixtures (oxygen, nitrox, heliox, and trimix) and range of dive parameters (depth and time). Training of recreational deep divers is conducted at depths of 120–150 metres and some divers dive to 180–200 metres using the same diving techniques. Extremely deep recreational divers go to depths of more than 200 metres, at which depths the physical and chemical properties of breathing gases create some physiological restrictions already known from professional deep diving. One risk is carbon dioxide retention due to limitation of lung ventilation caused by the high density of breathing gas mixture at great depths. This effect can be amplified by the introduction of the additional work of breathing if there is significant external resistance caused by a breathing device. The other risk for deep divers is High Pressure Neurological Syndrome (HPNS) caused by a direct compression effect, presumably on the lipid component of cell membranes of the central nervous system. In deep professional diving, divers use a mixture of helium and oxygen to decrease gas density, and nitrogen is used only in some cases for decreasing the signs and symptoms of HPNS. The same approach with decreasing the nitrogen content in the breathing mixture can also be observed nowadays in deep recreational diving. Moreover, in extremely deep professional diving, hydrogen has been used successfully both for decreasing the density of the breathing gas mixture and amelioration of HPNS signs and symptoms. It is fair to assume that the use of hydrogen will be soon “re-invented” by extremely deep recreational divers. So the scope of modern diving medicine for recreational divers should be expanded also to cover these problems, which previously were assigned exclusively to professional and military divers.
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Keywords

recreational diving; carbon dioxide retention; high pressure neurological syndrome

About this article
Title

Extremely deep recreational dives: the risk for carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) retention and high pressure neurological syndrome (HPNS)

Journal

International Maritime Health

Issue

Vol 63, No 1 (2012)

Pages

49-55

Published online

2012-06-05

Bibliographic record

International Maritime Health 2012;63(1):49-55.

Keywords

recreational diving
carbon dioxide retention
high pressure neurological syndrome

Authors

Jacek Kot

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