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Training Improves Divers’ Ability to Detect Increased CO2

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Eynan M, Daskalovic YI, Arieli Y, Arieli R, Shupak A, Eilender E, Kerem DH. Training improves divers’ ability to detect increased CO2 . Aviat Space Environ Med 2003; 74:537–45.

Background: Elevated arterial Pco2 (hypercapnia) is a known risk in diving with closed circuit breathing apparatus. In a retrospective study, we determined CO2 retention and the ability to detect CO2 in novice divers who were either CO2-recognition-trained subjects (TS) or untrained subjects (UTS). Methods: Ventilatory and perceptual responses to variations in inspired CO2 (range 0–5.6 kPa, 0–42 mm Hg) during moderate exercise were assessed in novice Israeli Navy divers on active duty. Tests were carried out on 231 TS and 213 UTS. Results: The minimal mean inspired Pco2 that could be detected was 4.8 ± 1.6 kPa (36 ± 12 mm Hg) in UTS and 2.9 ± 0.7 kPa (22 ± 5 mm Hg) in TS (p < 0.0001). No significant changes were found in Petco2 between the two groups during exposure to a Pico2 of 5.6 kPa (42 mm Hg). There were 46 TS who were found to be CO2 retainers (more than +1 SD above the mean) and 19 were classified as poor detectors (more than +1 SD above the mean). Seven subjects exhibited both traits. During actual oxygen diving performed later by this group, the only four cases of CNS-oxygen toxicity were among those seven subjects (p < 0.01). Conclusions: We conclude that CO2 recognition training improves the diver’s capability to detect CO2. We suggest that a diver who is both a poor CO2 detector and a CO2 retainer will be prone to CNS-oxygen toxicity.
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Keywords: CO2 detection; CO2 retention; hyperbaric oxygen; hypercapnia

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2003

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