Friday, August 19, 2005

Scuba Diving With Port in place

Hello ScubaDoc,

Would you be able to tell me if diving is permitted while a port a cath is in place? I am going to Roatan in November. I hate the thought of not diving, but if I can’t, I’m sure there is a hammock with my name on it. I am receiving chemo therapy and so far, doing quite well. My doctor has told me that he will cater my treatment to my trip.


Hi Diver:

There would be no reason why a person should not be allowed to dive with a portacath or any other indwelling drug delivery system, given the fact that there is no air in the system to enlarge or change in size due to the changes in pressure. [Remember Boyle's Law?]

However, there might be other caveats that would prevent a person diving, such as medication effects on the individual in the underwater milieu.

A person should not dive who has been immuno-suppressed, due to the possibility of infection from marine organisms that are not ordinarily pathogens - but which can overwhelm a person on anti-cancer drugs.

In addition, a person who is on anti-cancer meds is often weakened physically and cannot manage the ordinary requirements of scuba diving entries, currents, self and buddy rescue and exits. Anemia is another problem, there being an increased risk from hypoxia. Lung changes are also a consideration in persons taking some anti-cancer drugs. Pulmonary functions would then become important to the diver.

So - if you're between treatments and have no pulmonary problems, anemia or bone marrow suppression - scuba diving can be considered safe.

Dr. Sally Bauer writes and adds one more caveat to our list of cautions for the diver: that he/she takes care that the scuba gear does not chafe or erode the thin skin over the port's injection site.

Best regards:

Ern Campbell, MD

Scubadoc's Diving Medicine