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Delayed hyperbaric oxygen therapy for severe arterial gas embolism following scuba diving: a case report

We present the case of a 42-year-old female who was critically ill due to an arterial gas embolism (AGE) she experienced while diving in Maui, Hawaii. She presented with shortness of breath and dizziness shortly after surfacing from a scuba dive and then rapidly lost consciousness. The diver then had a complicated hospital course: persistent hypoxemia (likely secondary to aspiration) requiring intubation; markedly elevated creatine kinase; atrial fibrillation requiring cardioversion; and slow neurologic improvement. She had encountered significant delay in treatment due to lack of availability of local hyperbaric oxygen (HBO2) therapy. Our case illustrates many of the complications that can occur when a patient suffers a severe AGE. These cases may occur even without a history of rapid ascent or risk factors for pulmonary barotrauma, and it is imperative that they be recognized and treated as quickly as possible with HBO2. Unfortunately, our case also highlights the challenges in treating critically ill divers, particularly with the growing shortage of 24/7 hyperbaric chambers able to treat these ICU-level patients.

DOI: 10.22462/04.06.2019.13