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Arrhythmogenicity of scuba diving Holter monitoring in a hyperbaric environment

Introduction: About 26% of diving-related fatalities are caused by cardiac disease, part of which might be associated with fatal arrhythmias. This raises the question as to whether fatal arrhythmias are being provoked by hyperbaric conditions themselves or if exercise or stress provokes the fatal arrhythmias in cases of underlying (ischemic) cardiac disease.

Objective: To measure the influence of hyperbaric conditions (50 msw) on cardiac conduction and arrhythmias in professional divers by means of ECG.

Methods: This is a prospective study on military divers in a hyperbaric chamber with continuous ECG monitoring using Holter registrations. Supraventricular and ventricular ectopy was registered during hyperbaric conditions. RR, PR, QRS, QT and QTc intervals were calculated at 50 msw and compared with ECGs at rest.

Results: Included were 17 male military divers who made 20 dives. A total of 10 PVCs, 45 PACs, four atrial runs and four atrial pairs were seen. Significant prolongation of the PR interval was seen and a decrease of in QRS duration at 50 msw. There was no significant change in the RR, QT and QTc intervals.

Conclusions: In these divers, no clinically relevant arrhythmias were observed during wet dives in a recompression chamber at 50 msw. We observed a small prolongation of PR interval that is probably not clinically relevant in divers without any known conduction disorders.