Presumed Arterial Gas Embolism After Breath-Hold Diving in Shallow Water
Dive-related injuries are relatively common, but almost exclusively occur in recreational or scuba diving. We report 2 children with acute central nervous system complications after breath-hold diving. A 12-year-old boy presented with unilateral leg weakness and paresthesia after diving beneath the water surface for a distance of ∼25 m. After ascent, he suddenly felt extreme thoracic pain that resolved spontaneously. Neurologic examination revealed right leg weakness and sensory deficits with a sensory level at T5. Spinal MRI revealed a nonenhancing T2-hyperintense lesion in the central cord at the level of T1/T2 suggesting a spinal cord edema. A few weeks later, a 13-year-old girl was admitted with acute dizziness, personality changes, confusion, and headache. Thirty minutes before, she had practiced diving beneath the water surface for a distance of ∼25 m. After stepping out, she felt sudden severe thoracic pain and lost consciousness. Shortly later she reported headache and vertigo, and numbness of the complete left side of her body. Neurologic examination revealed reduced sensibility to all modalities, a positive Romberg test, and vertigo. Cerebral MRI revealed no pathologic findings. Both children experienced a strikingly similar clinical course. The chronology of events strongly suggests that both patients were suffering from arterial gas embolism. This condition has been reported for the first time to occur in children after breath-hold diving beneath the water surface without glossopharyngeal insufflation.
- Accepted May 12, 2015.
- Copyright © 2015 by the American Academy of Pediatrics