Barotrauma is pain or tissue damage due to a change in pressure. It happens when pressure outside the body is different from pressure inside the body. This leads the air inside the body to shrink or swell.
Pressure changes may affect the:
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Barotrauma is caused by:
Things that raise the risk of this problem are:
Blockages in the inner ear can raise the risk of barotrauma. They may be caused by:
Things that raise the risk of sinus barotrauma are:
Lung problems or damage may raise the risk for barotrauma in the lungs.
Other things that may raise the risk are:
Symptoms of barotrauma depend on the areas affected.
In the ears, it may cause:
In the sinuses, it may cause:
In the lungs, it may cause:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor will look in the ears for irritation or damage.
If the lungs could be affected, tests may be:
Treatment depends on the area affected. Barotrauma in the lungs is serious. It needs care right away.
Treatment options for barotrauma may be:
Lung barotrauma is treated right away with oxygen. It is given through a face mask or a tube under the nose.
To reduce the risk of this problem:
American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
Divers Alert Network
Canadian Society of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
Barotrauma. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/injuries-poisoning/injury-during-diving-or-work-in-compressed-air/barotrauma. Accessed March 1, 2021.
Diving precautions and prevention of diving injuries. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/injuries-poisoning/injury-during-diving-or-work-in-compressed-air/diving-precautions-and-prevention-of-diving-injuries. Updated July 2017. Accessed March 1, 2021.
Ears and altitude. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: http://www.entnet.org/content/ears-and-altitude. Accessed March 1, 2021.
Evaluation and management of middle ear trauma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/evaluation-and-management-of-middle-ear-trauma. Accessed March 1, 2021.
Rozycki SW, Brown MJ, et al. Inner ear barotrauma in divers: an evidence-based tool for evaluation and treatment. Diving Hyperb Med. 2018;48(3):186-193.
Last reviewed January 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD Last Updated: 3/1/2021