DAN Medical Frequently Asked Questions

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Spontaneous Pneumothorax

A new dive student noted a history of spontaneous pneumothorax (air or gas in the pleural cavity) on the medical form required for completion of an Open Water class. He stated that this was a congenital illness and he had undergone surgery to correct this condition one year ago. What safety precautions does he need to take to minimize the risk of an additional barotrauma injury?

Medical literature does not support scuba diving with a history of spontaneous pneumothorax: The condition is a definite contraindication to diving. Spontaneous pneumothorax usually occurs as a result of an underlying cystic disease of the lung. With this condition, fluid-filled cysts rupture, allowing the lung to collapse.
One of the principal dangers of this condition is that spontaneous pneumothorax can reoccur in either lung - an extremely difficult condition to manage if it occurs while the diver is still underwater. The air space that the lung occupied would expand as the diver ascended. It is impossible to determine the amount of risk involved in scuba diving with a history of spontaneous pneumothorax, even if an individual had the surgery.