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Barotrauma/Decompression Sickness (cont.)


The best prevention against barotrauma is to plan and prepare for your dive properly.

  • Make sure you are in good health with no upper respiratory or sinus problems.
  • Obtain the proper training and always use the buddy system (never dive alone).
  • Check that your equipment is in good working order.
  • Know the local emergency phone numbers in advance and have a means of contacting help, for instance, with a cellular phone. (The location of the nearest recompression facility could be very important in a problem such as air embolism.)
  • Newer "dive computers" designed to maximize safety can be used and may allow longer diving times and fewer or shorter decompression stops. They provide information similar to the original diving tables but are more precise. Be certain you are familiar with their use before depending on them.
  • Avoid flying in a plane within 24 hours of diving to reduce the risk of "the bends" occurring unexpectedly in the lower air pressure of an airplane cabin.


Most people recover from their diving accidents and are able to participate in future dives.

  • Air embolism can be the most devastating complication from a diving accident. The initial problems that occur can be very dramatic. Appropriate measures, including recompression, must be taken quickly to minimize disabilities. Recovery rates for people reaching a recompression chamber have been high.
  • Decompression sickness can also generally be treated effectively and result in very good recovery rates when recompression is performed, even several days after the initial onset.
  • Pulmonary barotrauma associated with a collapsed lung (pneumothorax) may require several days in the hospital if a chest tube is placed. There is always a risk of recurrence once a diver has a collapsed lung. Complete recovery will usually take several weeks to months.
  • Mild ear squeezes usually take about 1-2 weeks to recover. More significant ones, typically associated with eardrum rupture, may take longer. Depending on the severity and amount of damage, surgery may be recommended.

Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by John A. Daller, MD; American Board of Surgery with subspecialty certification in surgical critical care

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/5/2016

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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.

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