A new, minimally invasive office procedure called Eustachian Tube Dilation or Balloon Eustachian Tuboplasty has been helping SCUBA divers with ear pressure problems get back in the water.
Many divers know that intense ear pain can accompany deep dives due to the inability to equilibrate air pressure through the eustachian tubes, which are the plumbing systems for the ears.
Now with a simple in-office procedure, this problem can be solved with good consistency in 15-minutes while under sedation if desired. ET Dilation is covered by Medicare and an increasing number of private insurances, with immediate return to work the next day possible.
Here are the details of this recent publication:
Outcome of Balloon Eustachian Tuboplasty in SCUBA Divers
Objectives: Good Eustachian tube (ET) function is necessary in order to equalize middle ear (ME) pressure with ambient pressures and avoid barotrauma among divers. Since placement of ventilation tubes is not compatible with diving, balloon eustachian tuboplasty is a potential surgical solution for divers with ET dysfunction (ETD). This is the first report of the outcome of balloon tuboplasty for ETD among divers.
Methods: A retrospective analysis of medical records and clinical examinations of adult divers treated in a single tertiary medical center.
Results: Four male divers (age range 21-71 years, 5 ETs) underwent balloon tuboplasty for ETD. None had identifiable risk factors for ETD. Symptom duration ranged from 2 to 5 years and was restricted to diving in 3 patients. The most common symptom was difficulties in equalizing air pressure during descent and ascent, followed by aural fullness and hearing loss. The validated Hebrew version of ETD-7 questionnaire (ETDQ-7H) results were normal in 3 ears and pathological (2.9 and 3.3) in 2 ears. The averaged postoperative ETDQ-7H score was 1.2 points, significantly better than the preoperative score (P < .05). While diving, pressure-equalizing sensation improved in all ears.
Conclusion: Balloon eustachian tuboplasty is a safe method for treating diving-induced baro-challenge ETD. This procedure can improve symptoms and enable the patient to resume diving.
Keywords: Eustachian tube; Eustachian tube dysfunction; balloon tuboplasty; barotrauma.