Neurological decompression illness and hematocrit: Analysis of a consecutive series of 200 recreational scuba divers

H. B. Newton, J. Burkart, D. Pearl, W. Padilla

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7 Scopus citations

Abstract

Neurological complications are common in recreational divers diagnosed with decompression illness (DCI). Prior reports suggest that hemoconcentration, with hematocrit values of 48 or greater, increase the risk for more severe and persistent neurological deficits in divers with DCI. Herein we describe our experience with neurological DCI and hematocrit values in a large series of consecutively treated divers. We performed a retrospective chart review of 200 consecutive recreational divers that received treatment for DCI. Standard statistical analyses were performed to determine if there were any significant relationships between diving-related or demographic parameters, neurological manifestations, and hematocrit. In 177 of the 200 divers (88.5%), at least one manifestation of neurological DCI (mild, moderate, or severe) was present. The median hematocrit value was 43, for both male and female divers, with a range of 30 to 61. Hematocrit values did not correlate with diver age or level of diving experience. In male divers, the hematocrit did not correlate with neurological symptoms, including the sub-group with values of 48 or greater. In contrast, female divers with hematocrit values of 48 or greater were significantly more likely to develop motor weakness (p=0.002, Fisher's exact test) and an increased number of severe sensory symptoms (p=0.001, Kendall's tau statistic). Neurological complications are common in recreational divers treated for DCI. Hematocrit values of 48 or higher were correlated with the presence of motor weakness and severity of sensory symptoms in female divers. The hematocrit did not correlate with neurological DCI in male divers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-106
Number of pages8
JournalUndersea and Hyperbaric Medicine
Volume35
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)

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