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April 6, 1984

Sickle Cell Trait and Scuba Diving

Author Affiliations

Veterans Administration Medical Center and University of Mississippi School of Medicine Jackson

JAMA. 1984;251(13):1681-1682. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03340370021013

To the Editor.—  The letter entitled "Complications of Sickle Cell Trait" by Lowbeer1 states that persons with sickle cell trait should avoid situations that produce absolute hypoxia and presents "diving" as an example. All of the other examples clearly involve a hypobaric environment. However, since the term diving usually refers to scuba diving, the reason for the ban on such activity is obscure, since the scuba diving environment is clearly hyperbaric. Dr Lowbeer is not alone in his contention that scuba diving should be forbidden to those persons with sickle cell trait (see reference 2 for other references). These authors, like Dr Lowbeer, fail to offer any evidence to support their contention.A few basic facts about scuba diving might be helpful in the elimination of obvious misinformation. In scuba diving, the ambient pressure increases 1 atm for every 10 m of saltwater. Dalton's law states: "In a mixture