Underwater nasal decongestant use: a novel approach to middle ear equalization.
Middle ear barotrauma is the most common diving-related injury. It is estimated to occur in more than 50% of experienced divers. Although divers learn how to effectively equalize their ears with various maneuvers, airway congestion may impede the ability to equalize the middle ear space via the Eustachian tube. In this case, one may have to avoid diving or abort a dive due to inability to descend. If difficulty with middle ear equalization occurs during the bottom phase of the dive, which may transpire during a multilevel cave or wreck dive, a diver may need to descend before he can exit the water. In this case, it is imperative that the middle ear can be equalized, or one risks middle ear barotrauma, tympanic membrane rupture, possible accrual of decompression and dwindling breathing gas reserves. A 46-year-old diver encountered difficulty with equalization during a cave dive and was able to administer oxymetazoline intranasally to facilitate middle ear equalization. Although effective for this individual,this maneuver is not without risks, which include disorientation, loss of buoyancy, coughing, sneezing, laryngospasm, and a theoretical increased susceptibility to CNS oxygen toxicity.
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