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Barotrauma/Decompression Sickness (cont.)

Exams and Tests

The doctor will gather information about the dive and perform a standard physical exam, paying particular attention to the areas of pain and nervous system.

Depending on the patient's condition, they may be referred immediately to a recompression (hyperbaric) chamber or may undergo further testing.

  • The patient's vital signs will be taken, measuring blood pressure, pulse, breathing rate, and temperature.
  • Doctors probably will do a pulse oximetry - an instrument that measures the level of oxygen in the blood - using a sensor on a finger or earlobe.
  • The most common initial treatments may be oxygen (through a face mask or a tube near the nose) and intravenous fluids.

Air embolism and decompression sickness usually will require recompression treatment and repeated physical examinations. After treatment, the doctor may recommend a specialized imaging study (CT scan or MRI) to further evaluate any neurological problems.

Chest pain and shortness of breath associated with pulmonary barotrauma may require an electrocardiogram (ECG) and a chest X-ray.

The doctor will inspect the patient's ear canal and eardrum if they have an ear squeeze, looking for physical signs that can range from no visible problems to a small amount of bleeding to eardrum rupture to heavy bleeding.

Any hearing loss or dizziness will probably require referral to an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat specialist) or audiologist (hearing specialist). They will test the patient's hearing and balance systems to determine if they have suffered any inner ear problems.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/19/2014

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Barotrauma »

Diving as a profession can be traced back more than 5000 years, yet diving-related disease was not described until Paul Bert wrote about caisson disease in 1878.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


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