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Swimming-induced pulmonary edema: current perspectives

Authors Smith R, Ormerod JOM, Sabharwal N, Kipps C

Received 11 January 2018

Accepted for publication 13 April 2018

Published 27 July 2018 Volume 2018:9 Pages 131—137

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/OAJSM.S140028

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Andrew Yee

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Prof. Dr. Andreas Imhoff


Ralph Smith,1 Julian O M Ormerod,2 Nikant Sabharwal,2 Courtney Kipps3

1Department of Sport and Exercise Medicine, Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, Oxford, UK; 2Department of Cardiology, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, Oxford, UK; 3Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health, Division of Surgery and Interventional Sciences, UCL, London, UK

Abstract: With the growing popularity of water-based sports, cases of swimming-induced pulmonary edema (SIPE) are becoming increasingly recognized. SIPE, a potentially life-threatening condition, is an acute cause of breathlessness in athletes. It has been described frequently in scuba divers, swimmers, and triathletes and is characterized by symptoms and signs of pulmonary edema following water immersion. It is important to recognize that athletes’ symptoms can present with a spectrum of severity from mild breathlessness to severe dyspnea, hemoptysis, and hypoxia. In most cases, there is rapid resolution of symptoms within 48 hours of exiting the water. Recent advances in the understanding of the pathophysiology of SIPE, particularly regarding exaggerated pulmonary vascular pressures, have begun to explain this elusive condition more clearly and to distinguish its predisposing factors. It is essential that event organizers and athletes are aware of SIPE. Prompt recognition is required not only to prevent drowning, but also to implement appropriate medical management and subsequent advice regarding return to swimming and the risk of recurrence. This manuscript provides a current perspective on SIPE regarding the incidence rate, the current understanding of the pathophysiology, clinical presentation, medical management, recurrence rates, and advice on return to sport.

Keywords: triathletes, open water swimming, diving, immersion, breathing difficulties

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