UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Airway Management

Title: Venous Air Embolism

Keywords: Air, Embolism, Catheter (PubMed Search)

Posted: 7/14/2007 by Mike Winters, MD (Emailed: 7/8/2007) (Updated: 8/25/2019)
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Recognize the signs of venous air embolism when inserting a central venous catheter * Although rare, a feared complications of CVC insertion is venous air embolism (VAE) * Conditions that increase the risk of VAE are detachment of catheter connections, failure to occlude the needle hub during insertion, hypovolemia, and upright positioning of the patient * Clinically, VAE presents with acute dyspnea, cough, chest pain, altered mental status, tachypnea, tachycardia, and/or hypotension * Treatment includes placing the patient in a left lateral decubitus position, reverse Trendelenburg, and providing 100% oxygen via NRB * Also consider hyperbaric oxygen therapy * Aspiration of air, as recommended in some textbooks, is rarely successful Reference: Mirski MA. Lele AV. Fitzsimmons L. Toung TJ. Diagnosis and treatment of vascular air embolism. Anesthesiology 2007;106(1):164-77.