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Rescue of a submerged convulsing diver

In 2018, the Medical Panel of the NATO Underwater Diving Working Group (UDWG) discussed the question of the rescue and management of a submerged unresponsive compressed-gas diver. The Panel reviewed the 2012 recommendation by the UHMS Diving Committee with respect to the specific recommendation in a convulsing diver using a half-face mask and separate mouthpiece, to delay surfacing until the clonic phase had subsided if the mouthpiece was in place. There is a paucity of scientific, epidemiological, experimental and observational human studies to substantiate this guidance. Experimental animal studies suggest that the likelihood of a complete airway obstruction during an ongoing seizure is low and that there is a high likelihood of surviving pulmonary barotrauma caused by complete airway closure. Airway management and control is an essential step in the management of the unresponsive diver and would be challenging to achieve in the underwater environment. Even in the military setting, it will be difficult to provide sufficient training to enable divers to handle such a situation. In this very rare scenario it is considered that emergency guidelines should be clear, concise and easy to follow. The UDWG therefore recommends that all unconscious military divers in this situation should be rescued to surface without waiting for clonic seizures to subside. Training organizations for recreational and occupational divers should consider whether this guidance should be applied for civilian divers as well.

DOI: 10.22462/04.06.2019.8