Scuba is an abbreviation for “self-contained underwater breathing system.” This refers to the oxygen tanks and masks that enable divers to swim for extended periods in deep waters. The activity is widely employed for various objectives, including economic gain and leisure activities. Without a particular level of instruction and experience, scuba divers run the risk of being exposed to a variety of dangers.
Accidents can happen during scuba diving because of the hazards involved. These might involve mishaps like:
- Equipment breakdown
- Collisions with things submerged in water
- Undersea water currents present a challenge
- Interactions with animals
Accidents during scuba diving can result in potentially very serious and even fatal injuries. Elements like temperature, pressure and water depth cause this. Decompression sickness, lung damage, head and neck injuries, and, in some circumstances, drowning and death are only a few of the injuries.
Sinus and Ear
Divers most frequently sustain ear barotrauma (Box 3-03). A pressure gradient across the eardrum is produced when the middle ear space pressure variations during the descent are not equalized. The pressure difference across the eardrum forces it into the middle ear space, producing bleeding and even a rupture when the middle ear tissues swell with edema as a result of the increased pressure.
Under these circumstances, forcing equalization can raise the pressure difference between the inner and middle ear, leading to a ruptured round window with perilymph leakage and inner ear damage. Divers must master the right equalization procedures to prevent these pathologic processes. The doctor can guide this attempt by employing straightforward otoscopy to monitor the tympanic membrane’s mobility.
Due to their relatively small connecting channels, paranasal sinuses are particularly vulnerable to barotrauma, usually on the descent. The symptoms are often moderate and subacute with small changes in pressure (depth), but they can worsen with repeated diving. Larger pressure shifts can be more harmful, especially when equilibration attempts are made with force (such as the Valsalva maneuver).
The following are additional risk factors for ear and sinus barotrauma:
- Wearing solid earplugs
- Medication (such as abuse or continuous use of decongestants leading to rebound congestion) (such as overuse or prolonged use of decongestants leading to rebound congestion)
- Sinus or ear surgery
- Nasal polyps or deformities
- Chronic sinus and nasal conditions that prevent equilibration during the significant barometric pressure variations seen during diving
Divers who think they might suffer sinus or ear barotrauma should stop diving and get help.
By breathing normally and ascending gradually while inhaling compressed gas, a scuba diver lowers the chance of lung overpressure issues. When a scuba diver ascends toward the surface without properly exhaling, as could occur, for instance, when a beginner diver panics, this might cause overexpansion of the lungs.
Ascent causes pressurized gas trapped in the lung to expand until the expansion surpasses the lung tissue’s elastic limit, causing injury and allowing gas bubbles to escape into one of three potential places:
- Pleural region: Lung collapse or pneumothorax can result from gas entering the pleural space.
- Mediastinum: Mediastinal emphysema is brought on by gas entering the area around the heart, trachea, and esophagus. It also frequently spreads into the skin (subcutaneous emphysema) or the tissue around the larynx, which can occasionally result in a change in voice characteristics.
- Vasculature of the lungs: An arterial gas embolism can occur when gas ruptures the alveolar walls, enters the pulmonary capillaries, and travels to the left side of the heart via the pulmonary veins (AGE).
While subcutaneous or mediastinal emphysema may go away independently, pneumothorax typically needs specialized care to remove the air and re-inflate the lung. AGE is a medical emergency requiring hyperbaric oxygen therapy right away (recompression treatment).
Scuba diving lung overinflation injuries can range from minor to severe and even fatal. Despite the rarity of pulmonary barotrauma in divers, patients exhibiting post-dive respiratory or neurological symptoms must undergo an urgent medical evaluation to rule out this condition.
Dysbaric injuries (such as AGE) and decompression sickness are both referred to as decompression illness (DCI) (DCS). The initial treatment is the same for both DCIs, even in divers who have meticulously followed the conventional decompression tables and the principles of “safe” diving. However, it may be difficult and unnecessary from a clinical and practical standpoint. The effects of AGE or DCS may be fatal or result in severe, irreversible harm.
Territorial Gas Embolism
Bubbles can be distributed throughout the human tissues, including the heart and brain, where they can disrupt circulation or harm vessel walls. Gas can enter the arterial blood through ruptured pulmonary vessels. The signs of AGE can range from mild neurologic findings to severe ones that demand prompt medical attention.
Any diver who comes up from the water unconscious or loses consciousness within ten minutes of surfacing should raise AGE suspicions with a medical professional. Start providing basic life support, including the greatest oxygen concentration possible. Even if the diver seems to have recovered, get them to a hyperbaric oxygen treatment center immediately because relapses can and do happen.
Who Can Be Held Responsible for Scuba Diving Injuries or Accidents?
Numerous things can result in accidents and injuries during scuba diving. Different parties may be held responsible for an injury brought on by a scuba diving accident due to the many elements at play.
A common instance is when a diver gets hurt due to equipment failure brought on by a manufacturing flaw. These include broken tank valves, damaged mask gear, and other related problems. In certain situations, the product’s maker may be held accountable for any injuries the defective product causes.
Scuba mishaps can also occur during a one-on-one coaching session or a group diving activity. If a scuba diving coach or instructor was negligent in instructing or guiding a student in such circumstances, they might be held accountable.
An illustration of this would be when a scuba instructor forces a student to dive in choppy water that they know they cannot handle. Although signing a waiver is frequently required for group or instructional scuba classes, responsibility may still be established, particularly if there is evidence of negligence.
What Legal Recourses Are Available for a Scuba Diving Accident Claim?
Many scuba diving incidents may lead to legal action to address potential issues or legal difficulties. Legal remedies often entail issuing the plaintiff with a financial damages award. This damages award can be adequate to cover losses, including medical bills, hospital bills, any property damage, and other fees and expenditures.
A recall may be made for a particular scuba-related product if multiple people have been hurt or put at risk by it. Also, if numerous plaintiffs suffer the same injury, some scuba diving accident claims may be combined into a class action lawsuit. The plaintiff’s surviving family members may also be entitled to financial compensation when wrongful death is a concern.
Do I Require an Attorney to Handle My Scuba Diving Accident Claim?
Accidents and injuries sustained when scuba diving can be very serious. If you require legal assistance for an injury claim, you might need to seek an experienced and local personal injury attorney nearby. You can get your lawyer’s support and direction for your case.