Friday, July 07, 2006

Beau's lines in saturation divers

H.Schwartz of the Hyperbaric Treatment Center at the University of Hawaii reports an interesting finding in the fingernails of saturation divers in a study done in the NEDU at Panama City FL.

Transverse furrows, or Beau's lines, were noted in the fingernails of all 6 divers following a deep saturation dive to a pressure equal to 1100 feet (335 meters) of sea water (3,370 kPa), and in 2 of 6 divers following a similar dive to 1000 feet (305 meters) of sea water (3,164 kPa). Both dives took place at the Ocean Simulation Facility of the Navy Experimental Diving Unit in Panama City, Florida. The divers breathed a partial pressure of 0.40 - 0.44 atm abs (40.5 - 44.6 kPa) oxygen, with the balance helium, during most of the time under pressure. All divers performed hard work on bicycle ergometers during the dives. Four of the divers on the first dive were treated during the dive for pain-only decompression sickness. Beau's lines have been reported in numerous medical conditions such as typhus, rheumatic fever, malaria, myocardial infarction, and other severe metabolic stresses. To the author's knowledge this is the first report of Beau's lines associated with saturation diving.

Beau's lines are depressions across the nail plate that often follow local trauma or some other inciting event. They also may reflect poor nutritional status, febrile illness, or a reaction to medication. Beau's lines are a temporary cessation in nail growth and tend to appear about one month after the inciting event. Beau's lines tend to resolve spontaneously as the nail grows out.
[Photo from the Cleveland Clinic]