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Glendale Adventist Medical Center
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Glendale, CA 91206
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Death After Diving Accidents Common

Posted on: 03/21/2006
Despite parents' warnings not to dive into shallow water, diving accidents still happen. Diving injuries affecting the cervical spine are the most common. Most of these accidents are caused by impaired judgment associated with alcohol. In this study doctors review 20 cases of diving injuries that occurred over a 34-year period. Long-term results of treatment are presented.

Diving head first into shallow water can cause an impact injury to the head and neck. Spinal cord injury with paralysis and even death are common after this type of reckless behavior.

The type of fracture, neurologic status, and general health are used to determine treatment. In these 20 cases, four patients had surgery to fuse the spine. The rest of the patients were treated with spinal traction and steroids. The drugs were used to prevent further spinal cord damage caused by swelling in the spinal canal.

There were five deaths in the first month after the diving accidents. One other patient died during the first year after the injury. Half the patients made improvements within five years. The other half remained unchanged. After 10 years one patient improved and one was worse. The rest stayed the same.

This series shows that conservative treatment can lead to improvement early in the recovery process. The final results depend on how severe the initial injury was. The authors stress the need for public education about water safety. Alcohol-related diving accidents are preventable.

Demetrios S. Korres, MD et al. Diving Injuries of the Cervical Spine in Amateur Divers. In The Spine Journal. January/February 2006. Vol. 6. No. 1. Pp. 44-49.

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