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January 1981

Diving Reflex: Another Method of Treating Paroxysmal Supraventricular Tachycardia

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Medicine, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, and St Mary's Hospital, Rochester, NY.

Arch Intern Med. 1981;141(1):22-23. doi:10.1001/archinte.1981.00340010024008

Bradycardia during submersion has long been known to occur in diving animals.1,2 This diving reflex is initiated through a complex cardiovascular reflex partly through cold water stimulation of afferent nerve endings on the body and partly by apnea.3,4 Apnea alone causes similar but much less extreme cardiovascular response. The efferent limb of the reflex is mediated through increased sympathetic stimulation of peripheral vasculature (except in heart and brain), which causes vasoconstriction and intense vagal stimulation of the heart. This reflex mechanism prominently seen in aquatic animals allows them to slow their heart rate, decrease oxygen demand, increase oxygen extraction, redistribute blood flow, and maintain arterial pressure when submerged.5 Though in a less intense form, man has retained this reflex. Bradycardia is commonly observed in human divers when they are submerged in water.6 This reflex is attenuated by a reduction in water temperature7,8 and can be

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