Valsalva Maneuver

The Valsalva maneuver is performed by moderately forceful attempted exhalation against a closed airway, usually done by closing one’s mouth and pinching one’s nose shut. Variations of the maneuver can be used either in medical examination as a test of cardiac function and autonomic nervous control of the heart, or to ‘clear’ the ears and sinuses (that is, to equalize pressure between them) when ambient pressure changes, as in diving, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, or aviation.

The technique is named after Antonio Maria Valsalva, the 17th Century physician and anatomist from Bologna, whose principal scientific interest was the human ear. He described the Eustachian tube and the maneuver to test its patency (openness). He also described the use of this maneuver to expel pus from the middle ear. A modified version is done by expiring against a closed glottis. This will elicit the cardiovascular responses described below but will not force air into the Eustachian tubes.

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