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Diving Accident Evacuations by Helicopter and Immersion Pulmonary Edema

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BACKGROUND: Scuba diving activities expose divers to serious accidents, which can require early hospitalization. Helicopters are used for early evacuation. On the French Mediterranean coast, rescue is made offshore mainly by a French Navy Dauphin or at a landing zone by an emergency unit EC 135 helicopter.

METHODS: We retrospectively analyzed diving accidents evacuated by helicopter on the French Mediterranean coast from 1 September 2014 to 31 August 2016. We gathered data at the Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Diving Expertise (SMHEP) of the Sainte-Anne Military Hospital (Toulon, France), the 35 F squadron at Hyres (France) Naval Air Station, and the SAMU 83 emergency unit (Toulon, France).

RESULTS: A total of 23 diving accidents were evacuated offshore by Dauphin helicopter and 23 at a landing zone on the coast by EC 135 helicopter without hoist. Immersion pulmonary edema (IPE) accounted for one-third of the total diving accidents evacuated by helicopter with identified causes. It was responsible for at least half of the deaths at the dive place. A quarter of the rescued IPE victims died because of early cardiac arrest.

DISCUSSION: Helicopter evacuation is indicated when vital prognosis (IPE and pulmonary overpressure in particular) or neurological functional prognosis (decompression sickness) is of concern. IPE is the primary etiology in patients with serious dive injuries that are life-threatening and who will benefit from helicopter evacuation. A non-invasive ventilation device with inspiratory support and positive expiratory pressure must be used, in particular for IPE.

Corgie L, Huiban N, Pontier J-M, Brocq F-X, Boulard J-F, Monteil M. Diving accident evacuations by helicopter and immersion pulmonary edema. Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2020; 91(10):806811.
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Keywords: diving accident; helicopter rescue; immersion; medical evacuation; pulmonary edema

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2020

More about this publication?
  • This journal (formerly Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine), representing the members of the Aerospace Medical Association, is published monthly for those interested in aerospace medicine and human performance. It is devoted to serving and supporting all who explore, travel, work, or live in hazardous environments ranging from beneath the sea to the outermost reaches of space. The original scientific articles in this journal provide the latest available information on investigations into such areas as changes in ambient pressure, motion sickness, increased or decreased gravitational forces, thermal stresses, vision, fatigue, circadian rhythms, psychological stress, artificial environments, predictors of success, health maintenance, human factors engineering, clinical care, and others. This journal also publishes notes on scientific news and technical items of interest to the general reader, and provides teaching material and reviews for health care professionals.

    To access volumes 74 through 85, please click here.
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