Arterial Gas Embolism (AGE) of the Eye

  • Caused by pulmonary barotrauma as the diver ascends, with bubbles getting into the pulmonary venous system and arterial circulation from rupture of alveoli.
  • This can happen in as little as 4 feet of water if the diver holds the breath while ascending with compressed air
  • Ocular symptoms generally come from cerebral defects posterior to the optic chiasm, leading to hemianopias and cortical blindness. (Brain)
  • The gas emboli can also occlude the ophthalmic or central retinal artery resulting in blindness. (Arteries blocked)
  • The treatment is similar to that given for DCS – emergent recompression and hyperbaric oxygen in all cases.


Ernest S. Campbell, M.D., FACS

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