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Bosco G, Paganini M, Rizzato A, Martani L, Garetto G, Lion J, Camporesi EM, Moon RE. Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. 2020; ePub(ePub): ePub.


Department of Anesthesiology, Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Environmental Physiology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC, USA.


(Copyright © 2020, Holtzbrinck Springer Nature Publishing Group)






PURPOSE: Adaptations during voluntary breath-hold diving have been increasingly investigated since these athletes are exposed to critical hypoxia during the ascent. However, only a limited amount of literature explored the pathophysiological mechanisms underlying this phenomenon. This is the first study to measure arterial blood gases immediately before the end of a breath-hold in real conditions.

METHODS: Six well-trained breath-hold divers were enrolled for the experiment held at the "Y-40 THE DEEP JOY" pool (Montegrotto Terme, Padova, Italy). Before the experiment, an arterial cannula was inserted in the radial artery of the non-dominant limb. All divers performed: a breath-hold while moving at the surface using a sea-bob; a sled-assisted breath-hold dive to 42 m; and a breath-hold dive to 42 m with fins. Arterial blood samples were obtained in four conditions: one at rest before submersion and one at the end of each breath-hold.

RESULTS: No diving-related complications were observed. The arterial partial pressure of oxygen (96.2 ± 7.0 mmHg at rest, mean ± SD) decreased, particularly after the sled-assisted dive (39.8 ± 8.7 mmHg), and especially after the dive with fins (31.6 ± 17.0 mmHg). The arterial partial pressure of CO2 varied somewhat but after each study was close to normal (38.2 ± 3.0 mmHg at rest; 31.4 ± 3.7 mmHg after the sled-assisted dive; 36.1 ± 5.3 after the dive with fins).

CONCLUSION: We confirmed that the arterial partial pressure of oxygen reaches hazardously low values at the end of breath-hold, especially after the dive performed with voluntary effort. Critical hypoxia can occur in breath-hold divers even without symptoms.

Language: en


Arterial blood gas; Blood gas analysis; Breath-hold diving; Physiology; Underwater


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