To conduct a systematic review of the published evidence relating to the prevention of otic barotrauma in aviation. In particular, this review sought to identify procedures, techniques, devices, and medications for the prevention of otic barotrauma as well as evaluate the evidence relating to their efficacy.
Ten databases including Embase, MEDLINE, the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials were searched using the full historical range.
English language articles including more than or equal to five participants or cases were included. Outcomes of interest were reduced severity or the successful prevention of otic barotrauma in participants undergoing gradual changes in pressure during air travel or its simulation.
Articles and data were extracted and analyzed according to Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses and other international guidelines.
This review highlights the lack of published evidence relating to what is a significant and increasingly common problem in otology. There is level 1 evidence that supports the efficacy of oral pseudoephedrine (120 mg) in preventing otic barotrauma in adults. However, oral pseudoephedrine (1 mg/kg) does not appear to be effective in children. There is insufficient evidence to support the efficacy of either nasal balloon inflation or pressure-equalizing ear plugs for the prevention of otic barotrauma. A recently reported, novel technique for insertion of temporary tympanostomy tubes is promising but requires further evaluation.