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The Mechanisms of Barotrauma in Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

We all learn about barotrauma in the Introductory Course in Hyperbaric Medicine. The question we have for you today is whether or not you remember the mechanisms of what causes barotrauma and how to properly pre-screen HBOT patients.

Barotrauma is a known possible complication and/or side effect associated with the use of hyperbaric medicine (and the practice of diving). In the case of a barotrauma, the damage done to tissues caused directly by a change in ambient pressure. A barotrauma could occur to a patient while receiving hyperbaric oxygen therapy, so it is important to do the proper pre-HBOT screening of each patient to ask if they current have or have ever had such conditions as:

  • Spontaneous pneumothorax
  • Bleomycin
  • Doxorubicin (Adriamycin)
  • Antabuse
  • Congenital Spherocytosis
  • Fever >101F
  • URI
  • Recent cardiac surgery
  • Active bronchospasm
  • COPD/CO2 retention/Emphysema
  • Post-operative intraocular gas
  • Ear surgery
  • Seizure disorder
  • Current pregnancy
  • Claustrophobia
  • Optic neuritis

In hyperbaric medicine, a barotrauma could occur in the ear, sinuses, lungs or dental cavity. The five conditions that are "required" for a barotrauma to occur are:

  1. Gas filled space
  2. Enclosed space (volume constant)
  3. Relatively rigid walls
  4. Membrane-lined (blood supply)
  5. Change in ambient pressure

Any area of the body that fulfills these five conditions may suffer a barotrauma.

Continue Your Education in Hyperbaric Medicine.

Recommended Resources
 Intro HBOT 6

Introductory Course in Hyperbaric Medicine

40.0 hour credit course, live course

Schedule a course at your facility or participate in an already scheduled course. This course is designed for those who are new to hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and serves as a comprehensive review of HBOT for seasoned practitioners.


Intro HBOT 4

Hyperbaric Medicine Mechanisms of Action and UHMS Accepted Indications (online credit course)

6.0 hour credit course.

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