Scuba Diving: Gastric Squeeze

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What is Gastric Squeeze?

  • Gastric squeeze, or gas in the gut, often occurs while diving as air inside the body swells during descent and expands during ascent.
  • Other causes of gastric squeeze may include:
    • drinking carbonated beverages before diving,
    • eating beans before diving,
    • chewing gum during diving, or
    • repeatedly equalizing the ears with the head down.

Gastric Squeeze Symptoms

Symptoms of abdominal squeeze include the following:

  • Abdominal fullness, abdominal cramps, pain, belching, and flatulence occur.
  • Rarely, gastric squeeze may cause a diver to pass out or may result in gut rupture.

Gastric Squeeze Treatment

Treatment while diving consists of the following:

  • Vent the gas and stop the ascent.
  • Continue the ascent when gastric squeeze symptoms subside.

When to Seek Medical Care

Medical assistance for gastric squeeze is rarely required. However, see a health care provider if severe pain fails to subside after belching or flatulence occurs.

For More Information

Divers Alert Network, Diving Medicine, Gastrointestinal Issues - Consider Them Before Returning to Diving

Divers Alert Network, Diving Medicine, Frequently Asked Questions

familydoctor.org, Scuba Diving Safety

The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, Decompression Illness

Reviewed on 11/20/2017

Medically reviewed by a Board Certified Family Practice Physician

REFERENCE:

"Diaphragmatic rupture resulting from gastrointestinal barotrauma in a scuba diver."
Br J Sports Med. 1998 Mar;32(1):75-6M
Authors: Hayden JD, Davies JB, Martin IG
U.S. National Library of Medicine

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