Diving after stapedectomy: clinical experience and recommendations.

Research paper by J W JW House, E H EH Toh, A A Perez

Indexed on: 11 Oct '01Published on: 11 Oct '01Published in: Otolaryngology--head and neck surgery : official journal of American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery


Much controversy exists concerning the risk of inner ear barotrauma after stapes surgery in scuba and sky divers. Uniform consensus has not been established regarding poststapedectomy barorestrictions. The purpose of this study was (1) to determine the prevalence of adverse auditory and/or vestibular sequelae in patients after stapedectomy related to scuba and sky diving, and (2) to offer recommendations on barometric exposure after stapes surgery.Survey questionnaires were mailed to 2222 patients who had undergone stapedectomies at a single tertiary otologic referral center between 1987 and 1998. Two hundred eight of the initial 917 respondents (22.7%) had snorkeled, scuba, or sky dived after stapes surgery, and 140 of these responded to a second questionnaire detailing dive protocols, otologic symptoms, and their relationship to the diving activities. Of the 140, 28 had scuba or sky dived. Their survey data were analyzed and their medical records were reviewed.Four of the 22 scuba divers (18.1%) experienced otologic symptoms at the time of diving. These included otalgia on descent (3/22; 13.6%), tinnitus (1/22; 4.5%), and transient vertigo on initial submersion (1/22; 4.5%). One patient had sudden sensorineural hearing loss and vertigo develop 3 months after scuba diving, which he related to noise exposure. He was subsequently found to have a perilymph fistula, which was successfully repaired. Of the 9 patients who sky dived, 2 patients (22.2%) reported otologic symptoms during the dive. No significant diving-related long-term effects indicative of labyrinthine injury were seen in any of the 28 patients.Stapedectomy does not appear to increase the risk of inner ear barotrauma in scuba and sky divers. These activities may be pursued with relative safety after stapes surgery, provided adequate eustachian tube function has been established.