DAN Medical Frequently Asked Questions

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Post Brain Tumor Surgery

I went through surgery to remove a brain tumor a few years ago. Since then, I've had no signs of problems. I would like to return to diving. will this increase my risk?

Some brain tumors are benign - once it's removed, the person is cured of that particular tumor. Some brain tumors are cancerous and may return. Removal of either type of tumor - benign or cancerous - sometimes results in substantial loss of neurologic function; at other times there is no loss of function at all.

Fitness & Diving
This depends on all the factors above, and others, too. Individuals should be counseled that if cerebral DCI or AGE occurs, they may be at risk for significant residual symptoms due to pre-existing CNS problems. Another item to consider: Brain tumors may cause seizures, a definite contraindication for diving. Consider:


  1. The extent of the physical handicap;
  2. The presence of seizures or the need for anticonvulsant medication;
  3. Surgery by itself does not constitute a diving hazard: when you dive, there is no pressure shift inside the head. The outside/inside pressure is the same, so no shift in structure occurs, and diving will have no effect on remaining tumor cells.
  4. Surgery done through the nose (as in the removal of a diseased pituitary gland) may be a special case because of increased risk of barotrauma to the sinuses or nasal passages, which may have been traumatized during the procedure.
  5. A defect in the skull itself may require special protection from physical trauma: piercing the skin over the defect while underwater poses a greater infection hazard than when at the surface.


Medication Used in Treatment
Some cancer treatment medications may affect the patient's lungs. A return to diving may necessitate a pulmonary evaluation.

For more information on conditions involving the central nervous system, see all of Dr. Hugh Greer's article from the May/June 1999 issue of Alert Diver.