Forty commercial saturation divers, mean age 34.9 (range 24-49) years, were examined one to seven years after their last deep dive (190-500 metres of seawater). Four had by then lost their divers' licence because of neurological problems. Twenty seven (68%) had been selected by neurological examination and electroencephalography before the deep dives. The control group consisted of 100 men, mean age 34.0 (range 22-48) years. The divers reported significantly more symptoms from the nervous system. Concentration difficulties and paraesthesia in feet and hands were common. They had more abnormal neurological findings by neurological examination compatible with dysfunction in the lumbar spinal cord or roots. They also had a larger proportion of abnormal electroencephalograms than the controls. The neurological symptoms and findings were highly significantly correlated with exposure to deep diving (depth included), but even more significantly correlated to air and saturation diving and prevalence of decompression sickness. Visual evoked potentials, brainstem auditory evoked potentials, and magnetic resonance imaging of the brain did not show more abnormal findings in the divers. Four (10%) divers had had episodes of cerebral dysfunction during or after the dives; two had had seizures, one had had transitory cerebral ischaemia and one had had transitory global amnesia. It is concluded that deep diving may have a long term effect on the nervous system of the divers.
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