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Immersion Pulmonary Edema

(Swimming-Induced Pulmonary Edema; SIPE)

By

Richard E. Moon

, MD, Duke University Medical Center

Last full review/revision Jun 2021| Content last modified Jun 2021
Click here for the Professional Version

Immersion pulmonary edema is sudden development of fluid in the lungs that typically occurs early during a dive and at depth.

Immersion pulmonary edema has become more widely recognized over the past two decades. It happens when blood from the legs and abdomen is redistributed to the lungs, which increases pressure in the blood vessels of the lungs, causing leakage of plasma into the air spaces. This usually occurs in competitive open-water swimmers at the surface but can also occur in divers. Immersion pulmonary edema is not related to lung barotrauma Pulmonary (lung) barotrauma Barotrauma is tissue injury caused by a change in pressure, which compresses or expands gas contained in various body structures. The lungs, gastrointestinal tract, part of the face covered... read more or decompression sickness Decompression Sickness Decompression sickness is a disorder in which nitrogen dissolved in the blood and tissues by high pressure forms bubbles as pressure decreases. Symptoms can include fatigue and pain in muscles... read more . Cold water and a history of high blood pressure High Blood Pressure High blood pressure (hypertension) is persistently high pressure in the arteries. Often no cause for high blood pressure can be identified, but sometimes it occurs as a result of an underlying... read more High Blood Pressure and other cardiovascular disorders are risk factors.

Divers usually ascend rapidly and become very short of breath. A cough with frothy or bloody sputum is typical and blood oxygen levels are low.

Doctors may do tests such as chest x-rays and echocardiography to confirm the diagnosis.

Prevention

More Information

The following English-language resources may be useful. Please note that THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of these resources.

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