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Posted : April 12, 2010
Return to diving after Spontaneous Pneumothorax?
Dr Firth,

Having dived in perfect health for 11 years (stand fast one foolish bend due to dehydration), I suffered a non-diving related spontaneous, single sided pneumothorax.

The lung was re-inflated and since then I have had nearly 5 years of healthy and recurrence free non-diving.

The advice from my doctors at the time was to "wait and see" and that I would need to wait 5 yrs before I could even consider diving.

As the 5 years is almost up, please could you give me some sort of indication of the process that I would need to go through to ensure that I am fit to dive and whether any restrictions would be placed on my diving by either BSAC or IANTD, my accrediting bodies?

Naturally, when I enquired as to their policy, a certain other organisation were happy to take me on the day I left hospital, but I politely declined!

Although I would dearly love to dive again, I can only consider doing so if I know that I am not putting myself or others at risk by doing so.

In my previous life, I was a BSAC Dive Leader and IANTD Advanced Nitrox diver. I would like to return to the same sort of diving - approx 40-50m max, but longer duration dives, using an enriched deco gas and all in cold water.

Many Thanks

Posted : April 12, 2010
Thanks for the email Ian.

The UK Sport Diving Medical Committee guidelines on spontaneous pneumothorax are here:

The important bit is this:

"The medical committee has therefore adopted the pragmatic approach of accepting that in individuals with a history of spontaneous pneumothorax who have had a bilateral pleurectomy or who are unoperated upon but had no pneumothorax for five years the risk of pulmonary barotrauma is small and not significantly greater than for many in the general population e.g. smokers. Such individuals may dive provided that a CT scan of the chest and lung function tests, including flow-volume loops, show no reason to suggest that there is significant residual lung disease."

So you will need to organise the CT scan, and if this is normal, then book a dive medical so that the lung function testing and general examination can be carried out. To get back to the sort of diving you mention we need to be as sure as possible that the lungs are not going to collapse again.

Regards, Dr O

Answer provided by Dr Oliver Firth
Dr Ollie Firth
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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