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Recurrent Middle Ear Barotrauma in Student Pilots

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INTRODUCTION: The present study evaluated the efficacy of the nine-step inflation-deflation tympanometric test for predicting recurrence of middle ear barotrauma.

METHODS: Student pilots who were diagnosed with middle ear barotrauma from October 2010 to April 2011 were enrolled. The grade of barotrauma was assigned using Teed’s classification. All subjects underwent tympanometry and nine-step inflation-deflation testing at first visit and after improvement. Recurrence was monitored for 2 wk after they resumed flight. The relationships among the recurrence of middle ear barotrauma, the grade and duration of disease, and tympanometric and nine-step test results were evaluated.

RESULTS: There were 35 cases enrolled. According to Teed’s classification, 16 cases were Grade 0 (45.7%) and 11 cases were Grade I (31.4%). Grade III was shown in seven cases (20.0%) and one subject was Grade IV (2.9%). The mean duration of illness was 5.9 d. In the initial 9-step tests, 29 subjects (85.3%) failed to pass the entire test. On follow-up tests, eight cases (22.9%) failed. Seven pilots (20.0%) showed recurrent middle ear barotrauma after resumed flight. All of the cases with recurrence failed the follow-up nine-step tests. The nine-step test showed high sensitivity and specificity values for predicting recurrence. A clear correlation was observed between recurrence and nine-step test results.

DISCUSSION: The nine-step inflation-deflation test provides useful information about Eustachian tube function. The nine-step test can be useful to reduce the risk of recurrence of middle ear barotrauma in pilots.

Sohn JH. Recurrent middle ear barotrauma in student pilots. Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2019; 90(8):681–687.
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Keywords: Eustachian tube; barotrauma; middle ear; recurrence

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2019

More about this publication?
  • This journal (formerly Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine), representing the members of the Aerospace Medical Association, is published monthly for those interested in aerospace medicine and human performance. It is devoted to serving and supporting all who explore, travel, work, or live in hazardous environments ranging from beneath the sea to the outermost reaches of space. The original scientific articles in this journal provide the latest available information on investigations into such areas as changes in ambient pressure, motion sickness, increased or decreased gravitational forces, thermal stresses, vision, fatigue, circadian rhythms, psychological stress, artificial environments, predictors of success, health maintenance, human factors engineering, clinical care, and others. This journal also publishes notes on scientific news and technical items of interest to the general reader, and provides teaching material and reviews for health care professionals.

    To access volumes 74 through 85, please click here.
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