Everything You Need to Know About Barotrauma: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Barotrauma is a rare but serious consequence of deep-sea diving. It can develop into some serious medical conditions including pulmonary barotrauma, cerebral barotrauma, and arterial gas embolism. Let’s take a look at what causes it, how it develops, and how you can prevent it.

What Is Barotrauma/Decompression Sickness?

Barotrauma is a medical condition where gas trapped inside the body can cause problems by creating pressure gradients in the body. In deep-sea diving, gas trapped inside the diver can cause low pressure in the lungs and abdomen.

Pressure gradients then cause problems in other parts of the body by enlarging the chambers of the lung, causing increased intra-abdominal pressure (blood pooling), and narrowing the arteries in the affected body areas. Diagnosis of barotrauma depends on its severity.

Patients who only experience discomfort and headache may not need to be treated with painkillers.

What Causes Barotrauma/Decompression Sickness?

Severe pressure changes in the lungs, blood vessels, or tissues as a result of diving below about 100 feet (30 meters) above the surface are considered to be the primary causes of barotrauma. However, certain other conditions can also lead to lung injuries.

Symptoms Of Barotrauma/Decompression Sickness?

The most noticeable symptoms of barotrauma, especially when diving into cold water, is a pain in your chest or abdomen, as well as difficulty breathing. You’ll also be shaking and fatigue. As with most medical conditions, symptoms develop slowly and get worse over time.

This is why it’s important to take your time diving, especially if it’s your first time. Barotrauma is more common in divers than in the general population. Causes Of Barotrauma When your body is pulled down by forces (such as that created by a diving motion) that exceed its ability to withstand, your blood pressure rises.

This puts your heart in severe danger of being damaged. Blood rushes to your legs, causing shortness of breath.

Treatment For Barotrauma

It is possible to deal with the consequences of barotrauma, but it depends on how severe and how quickly you’ve been affected. Some people have been lucky and have not had any of the problems listed here develop.

On the other hand, a small percentage of divers suffer from a very serious and life-threatening complication, such as Acute pulmonary barotrauma (APBT) Air leaking into the lungs during a deep-sea dive causes a condition called APBT.

This has a range of severity, from severe asphyxia and breathing obstruction to mild hemoptysis (leaking air from the lungs). With this latter form of barotrauma, the diver may cough up blood and may experience an increase in heart rate.

Prevention Tips

Don’t dive too deep. Deep-sea divers have to undergo additional training to deal with decompression sickness (also known as the bends).

Some divers have to hold their breath for an extended period of time in order to stay under the surface and do deep-sea diving.

One way to prevent this is by staying well above the water level, doing activities like snorkeling, which gives your lungs a break. Get training before taking on a deep-sea dive.

When you’re considering taking on a deep-sea dive, get training from an instructor to learn how to dive safely and effectively.

At the very least, you should have an understanding of basic diving concepts and how to operate underwater equipment like scuba tanks and life jackets.

Having a buddy is also an important safety precaution.

What is the difference between decompression sickness and the bends?

Decompression sickness is an injury due to gas bubbles occurring in the air after a fast ascent. The exact numbers of divers affected by DCS are unknown.

The average daily dose of DCS among recreational diver is 300-400 mg a year in the USA.

There is no reliable diagnosis of decompression sickness because sometimes it’s unclear. In some cases, an injury is mild and not a risk at first but serious injuries may happen as soon as treatment is necessary, and more time is necessary.

Consult DAN or a nearby medical provider for advice. To find out more call diving and alert network.


Part of the magic of diving is that you get to see and do things underwater that most people haven’t done before.

Barotrauma, which is a type of emergency related to diving, is one of the rare but serious consequences of getting to do so.

Barotrauma is also a medical emergency in that it can lead to some serious problems and even death.

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