Barotrauma/Decompression Sickness (cont.)
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When to Seek Medical Care
Most problems that arise from barotrauma will require medical diagnosis or treatment. The most important thing the patient can do if they experience barotrauma is to seek medical attention and avoid future dives until cleared by a doctor.
Some injuries from barotrauma require immediate medical attention, while others can wait for treatment. In all cases, stop further diving until the patient has been seen by a doctor.
Air embolism is life threatening and requires immediate attention. Planning ahead is important.
Decompression sickness also requires immediate attention, but its symptoms may not appear as quickly as those of air embolism.
Pulmonary barotrauma and lung squeeze will require attention in an emergency department in most instances because the studies required to evaluate the symptoms and determine the possible treatment must be performed in the hospital environment.
A doctor can evaluate and treat ear squeezes and sinus squeezes initially and refer the patient to a specialist if required.
The diver needs immediate medical attention if they lose consciousness, show paralysis, or exhibit stroke symptoms within 10 minutes of surfacing.
You or your diving buddy should contact an ambulance through 911 or the local emergency phone numbers.
Symptoms of chest pain and shortness of breath may occur minutes to hours after a dive. These require emergency department evaluation.
Decompression sickness, or "the bends,” may require an emergency department to control pain and arrange for recompression services using specialized equipment that is available only at regional centers that specialize in barotrauma.
Dizziness or pain from a squeeze may require emergency attention as well. When in doubt, contact a doctor or a local emergency department for advice.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/5/2016
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