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Question
Posted : February 7, 2008
Hi, I was diagnosed with a rare form of Parsonage Turner Syndrome a year ago which caused a paralysed left diaphragm - will this affect diving?
The cause of the Parsonage Turner is not known but has been put down to a viral infection.
I became very short of breath in November 2006 and following numerous blood test and x-rays, it was discovered that I had a paralysed left diaphragm which was causing a partial collapse of the left lung.
Spirometry tests then showed a 50% lung capacity and x-rays a large white area in about a quarter of the bottom of the left lung.
I was unable to do any aerobic exercise as I was getting very short of breath - even going up a single flight of stairs was difficult!
In the summer, I did a try dive on holiday and felt great afterwards. Following this, a friend and I decided we would like to take up diving seriously and joined a local diving club.
Not being able to self-certify due to this problem, I was advised to get a lung x-ray and spirometry tests done.
I got this done and the x-ray results still showed an elevation of the left hemidiaphragm and a narrow band of scarring or atelectasis at the left base.
The spirometry test came back as normal.
This seems to be a vast improvement on tests done last year and I am experiencing no breathing difficulties during snorkeling or pool practice (down to 3m max).
I was wondering if this, in your opinion, would stop me progressing to open water dives? Thank you

Answer
Posted : February 8, 2008
Hi and thanks for the query, very unusual. There are 2 main issues here: firstly, your overall lung function. If your exercise capacity and spirometry are normal, then this should not present a problem. Secondly, the scarring at the base of your left lung. This is more worrying as it will predispose you to barotrauma, which could result in a collapsed lung or arterial gas embolism. These risks increase with depth. From my reading around, most cases of Parsonage Turner have a good prognosis, resolving over a year or two, so I think it would be prudent to delay your open water dives until it is clear that your lung changes have resolved. In the meantime, working to improve your aerobic fitness would be adviseable.
Kind regards
Dr O
Answer provided by Dr Oliver Firth
Dr Ollie Firth
Disclaimer:
The views expressed by Dr Firth & Dr Jules are their own and the publishers accept no liability for the advice and views expressed by Dr Firth , Dr Jules, or other users, which are provided as a general service to divers. Users are warned that secondary posts are the views of other users and may not be medically correct.
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