Diving accidents are rare and therefore do not present a frequent problem to the critical care practitioner. In the United States, which has a scuba diving population of 10 to 15 million people, approximately 100 diving fatalities are reported annually, with the majority due to human error from inexperience or overconfidence. Drowning or near-drowning are the most frequent severe diving accidents, followed by decompression disorders ( Table 1). Among decompression disorders decompression sickness and pulmonary barotrauma may present as life-threatening illnesses with a very unique pathophysiology necessitating immediate recompression and specialized intensive care treatment.

Table 1 Traditional classification of decompression disorders

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