Risk factors of decompression sickness in scuba diving

Oliwia Pińkowska, Zuzanna Podstawka, Aleksandra Byś, Piotr Gawda

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.12775/JEHS.2020.10.09.069



Recreational diving with aqualung can be called an extreme sport because the divers are exposed to physical and psychological risks. A serious danger in diving is the very exposure to a change in pressure underwater, which every diver must deal with. That kind of danger may cause many problems related to any pressure exposure and unfortunately, diving-related illnesses have shown the increasing tendency. Recreational divers are the most numerous group among the people who suffer from decompression sickness (DCS) and alas, similar condition can be expected in future years. Aim of this literature review was to determine the risk factors of decompression sickness after scuba diving.

Materials and methods

Material for this literature review was found by two independent authors searching PubMed, Cochrane library and ScienceDirect databases by using a combination of keywords: „scuba diving”, „risk factors”, „decompression sickness”, „DCS”. Finally, 4 publications qualified for a review of literature.


Many authors presented factors such as patent foramen ovale, BMI and fat mass, age, diving exposure, heavy exercise, sex, strong current, workload during diving, circulatory right-to-left shunt and the lack of changes in the diving style to have an impact on developing DCS. In the opposite, one study stated that overweight and gender had minor contribution to DSC.


Risk factors of decompression sickness  in scuba diving could be: high-grade PFO, age, diving exposure, strong current, heavy exercise, workload during diving, dehydration, repetitive diving, violation of dive profiles, experience in diving, presence of circulatory right-to-left shunt and the lack of changes in the diving style after previous DCS episode. Further research is needed to verify the role of gender and fat mass in developing symptoms of decompression sickness.


decompression sickness; scuba diving; risk factors; DCS; extreme sports

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