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Complications of SCUBA diving

Dipak Chandy, MD
Gerald L Weinhouse, MD
Section Editor
Daniel F Danzl, MD
Deputy Editor
Jonathan Grayzel, MD, FAAEM


There are more than 9 million recreational SCUBA (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) divers in the United States alone, and another several hundred thousand new divers are trained annually [1]. The incidence of diving-related disorders has increased in tandem with this increasing population at risk. The Divers Alert Network (www.diversalertnetwork.org) records more than 1000 diving-related injuries annually, of which almost 10 percent are fatal [2]. Hypothermia, trauma, and submersion-related injuries are potential complications of diving. (See "Accidental hypothermia in adults" and "Drowning (submersion injuries)".)

In addition, a variety of emergencies specific to diving may occur. These include [1,3]:

Barotrauma, including arterial air embolism

Decompression sickness

Nitrogen narcosis

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Oct 19, 2017.
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