The number of people participating in sport self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA) diving has increased tremendously, bringing with it a rise in diving accidents. Alternobaric vertigo (AV) is a common problem in SCUBA divers. We investigated the relationship between Eustachian tube function and incidence of AV in sport SCUBA divers. We also followed the progress of these divers after Eustachian tube function improved.
Forty-four patients who experienced a SCUBA diving accident affecting the middle ear (11 men and 33 women; mean ± SD: 37.5 ± 11.5 yr) and 20 healthy volunteer divers who did not experience an accident (6 men and 14 women; mean ± SD: 33.5 ± 13.9 yr) were compared. We divided the divers with an accident into two groups (those with AV vs. those without) and then compared the two groups. All patients regularly underwent Eustachian tube function tests (sonotubometry and impedance test).
In sonotubometry and impedance testing, the mean duration (p < 0.001), amplitude (p < 0.002), and maximum air content (p < 0.05) of divers who experienced a diving accident were significantly different from those of healthy volunteers. However, these parameters in divers with AV did not differ significantly from those in divers without AV. In 7 of 15 divers, vestibular symptoms disappeared immediately after ascent. In the remaining eight divers, however, vertigo/dizziness persisted and even was observed at their first clinic visit.
To prevent AV or barotraumas in SCUBA divers, we recommend a thorough Eustachian tube function evaluation. Any dysfunction should be treated before engaging in SCUBA diving.