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CO2 Detection in Closed-Circuit Oxygen Divers With and Without a Distracting Task

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Eynan M, Tal D, Arie E, Ne’eman F, Adir Y. CO2 detection in closed-circuit oxygen divers with and without a distracting task. Aviat Space Environ Med 2006; 77:1028–1033.

Introduction: Elevated arterial PCO2 (hypercapnia) increases the risk of CNS oxygen toxicity when diving with enriched oxygen gas mixtures. A CO2 detection and retention test is conducted as a matter of routine at the Israel Naval Medical Institute for physiological training, and as a screening tool for divers who may be prone to suffer from CNS oxygen toxicity. This test does not include an “attention distracter,” which would provide a better simulation of the true situation during actual diving. The purpose of the present study was to examine the hypothesis that the addition of cognitive tasks to the CO2 detection and retention test might alter divers’ detection ability. Methods: We assessed ventilatory and perceptual responses to variations in inspired CO2 (range 0–5.6 kPa, 0–42 mmHg) during moderate exercise, with and without the addition of cognitive tasks, in 15 Israel Navy combat divers on active duty. The first stage was the CO2 detection training session, followed by the CO2 detection test session (TEST) and the CO2 detection test session while doing cognitive tasks (COGN). The latter two sessions were performed by some of the subjects in reverse order. Results: We found that the mean (± SD) PICO2 at the detection threshold was significantly lower in the COGN (1.7 ± 0.8 kPa, 12.7 ± 6.0 mmHg) than in the TEST (2.4 ± 0.6 kPa, 18.1 ± 4.5 mmHg). The mean PETCO2 while inspiring 5.6 kPa (42 mmHg) CO2 was not significantly different in the two tests. Conclusion: We suggest that the ability to detect CO2 during a dive is not impaired, but rather improves when the diver’s attention is focused on other tasks.
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Keywords: CNS oxygen toxicity; CO2 detection; CO2 retention; cognitive tasks; diving

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 October 2006

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