Immersion pulmonary edema is sudden development of fluid in the lungs that typically occurs early during a dive and at depth.
Immersion pulmonary edema has become more common over the past two decades. A likely cause is malfunction of the regulator that controls gas flow, causing some suction forces to the airways. Immersion pulmonary edema is not related to lung barotrauma or decompression sickness. Cold water and a history of high blood pressure are risk factors.
Divers usually ascend rapidly and become very short of breath. A cough with frothy sputum is typical. Treatment includes diuretics that are effective immediately, such as intravenous furosemide, and oxygen, usually given under pressure by a mask. Mechanical ventilation may be necessary. Recompression therapy is not given.
Last full review/revision February 2009 by Alfred A. Bove, MD, PhD