Returning to SCUBA diving post-surgery should be done with caution. The amount of time a patient must wait before returning to diving post-surgery depends on the type of surgery and recovery progress. If the nasal passages have not had enough time to heal, complications can arise. SCUBA diving should not be attempted until the patient has been cleared by the surgeon. All allergies and sinus conditions should be treated before returning to diving.
Sinus barotrauma, known to divers as the sinus squeeze, occurs during rapid changes in barometric pressure. Sinuses are open cavities full of air. Normal-pressure inside the nasal cavities is equal to the pressure of the external environment. Failure to allow the ambient pressure to equalize can result in mucosal edema, contusion, and nasal hemorrhage.
What is baratrauma?
Barotrauma pain is typically felt between the brow bone and down through the nose. The diver will experience sudden shooting pain followed by an intense headache. Barotrauma is often associated with underlying sinus conditions that need to be treated with medication or surgery. Patients should refrain from diving during upper respiratory infections or severe congestion. Decongestant usage should be monitored as overuse can cause congestion to return. Ascending and descending slowly will help the body equalize pressure.
Speed up recovery
Patients can return to normal activity within 24-48 hours. Nose bleeds after surgery are common and can be mitigated by elevating the head and placing an icepack across the nose. A slight fever and discomfort are to be expected. The patient should avoid heavy lifting or strenuous exercise during the recovery period. Elevated heart rates can raise blood pressure and increase bleeding in the nasal cavities. The patient should also avoid blowing the nose for one-week post-surgery. Forcing air through the sinuses can create unnecessary trauma to the surgery sites. Activities such as flying or scuba diving should be avoided for at least 2 weeks or until all nasal swelling has receded.
Returning to diving
Divers can return to the water within a couple of weeks post-surgery as long as all swelling is gone. Diving with residual swelling can cause additional sinus problems and keep the patient out of the water for much longer. Barotrauma, known as the sinus squeeze, is the most common sinus complication related to diving. Patients who have had sinus surgery should consult with the surgeon regarding when to return to normal activities.