>Pain and acute loss of function impedes your ability to dive safely. Acute pain serves an important function since it limits the use of that limb to allow healing and prevent further injury. Thus, your should not dive with an acute fracture. Furthermore, swelling and changes in blood flow could impair the efficient release of nitrogen stored in the injured tissues, possibly increasing the risk of DCI.
>Symptoms caused by the injury, such as pain and numbness, burning, itching or tingling could add diagnostic confusion if DCI is being investigated. However, after satisfactorily healing and rehabilitation and approval by the orthopedic surgeon, you can resume diving. Once complete healing has occurred, there is little or no evidence to suggest a higher risk of DCI.
>If a diver experiences persistent pain, numbness or weakness, a dive physician should evaluate the diver’s condition before any resumption of diving. If the diver returns to diving, the orthopedic surgeon must carefully document the diver’s neurological, vascular and functional deficits. In many chronic pain states, no further injury occurs, and many studies report that, with increasing activity, subjects show improvement of overall function and a reduction in chronic pain.
>ABOUT THE AUTHOR
>DAN referral physician James Chimiak, M.D. is Chief of Anesthesiology at the Naval Hospital in Camp Lejeune, N.C., a Navy Diving Medical Officer and a Hyperbaric Medicine Adviser.