Prevalence and causes of loss of consciousness in former North Sea occupational divers
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Background: Loss of consciousness (LOC) is a serious event during diving. The purpose of this study wasto estimate the prevalence and causes of LOC during diving in former North Sea divers, and the impacton health-related quality of life.
Materials and methods: Up to 1990 a total of 373 Norwegian offshore divers worked in the North Sea. From 2000 to 2011, 221 of these were referred to the Department of Occupational Medicine at Haukeland University Hospital for examination due to health complaints. They filled in a questionnaire for registration of diving experience and health complaints, including the SF-36 version 1 for the assessment of quality oflife. The questionnaire and the hospital records were systematically reviewed by 2 independent observers. Episodes of LOC during diving and the causes were registered. All participants underwent a clinical neurological examination. Electroencephalogram (EEG) and the event-related brain potential (P300) were recorded.
Results: One or more episodes of LOC were reported by 58 of 219 divers. LOC due to gas cut was reportedby 27 of these. Divers having experienced LOC due to gas cut had lower SF-36 sub-scores then the rest of the diving population. EEG and P300 recordings did not differ between the groups.
Conclusions: A high proportion of former Norwegian North Sea divers reported episodes of LOC, for whichgas cut was the most common cause. Both hypoxia and peritraumatic stress associated with the episodecould have a long term impact on the quality of life. Neurophysiological functions, however, did not differbetween the groups.