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Arterial Gas Embolism (Age)

Arterial Gas Embolism (Age) is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Emergency Consult.

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  • Results when air bubbles enter the pulmonary venous return from ruptured alveoli, then propagate through the systemic vasculature:
    • Clinical manifestations depend on location of air bubbles in systemic vasculature system.
  • Also known as dysbaric air embolism or cerebral air embolism
  • Caused by overpressurization of lung tissue, causing pleural tear with air entering the vascular circulation:
    • Trapped air (in lungs with closed glottis) expands on diver ascent.
    • Boyle law: At a constant temperature, pressure (P) is inversely related to volume (V):
      • PV = K (constant) or P1V1 = P2V2
    • As pressure increases/decreases, volume decreases/increases.


  • Pulmonary atrioventricular (AV) shunts, or as paradoxical embolism via a patent foramen ovale
  • Breath holding during ascent:
    • Symptoms attributable to a shower of bubbles and multiple blood vessel involvement
  • Iatrogenically during placement of central venous pressure (CVP) lines, cardiothoracic surgery, or hemodialysis
  • Penetrating injuries to heart, with emergent repair of cardiac wound

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Rosen, Peter, et al., editors. "Arterial Gas Embolism (Age)." 5-Minute Emergency Consult, 5th ed., Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2016. Emergency Central, emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307090/all/Arterial_Gas_Embolism__Age_.
Arterial Gas Embolism (Age). In: Rosen P, Shayne P, Barkin AZ, et al, eds. 5-Minute Emergency Consult. 5th ed. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2016. https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307090/all/Arterial_Gas_Embolism__Age_. Accessed April 26, 2019.
Arterial Gas Embolism (Age). (2016). In Rosen, P., Shayne, P., Barkin, A. Z., Wolfe, R. E., Hayden, S. R., Barkin, R. M., & Schaider, J. J. (Eds.), 5-Minute Emergency Consult. Available from https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307090/all/Arterial_Gas_Embolism__Age_
Arterial Gas Embolism (Age) [Internet]. In: Rosen P, Shayne P, Barkin AZ, Wolfe RE, Hayden SR, Barkin RM, Schaider JJ, editors. 5-Minute Emergency Consult. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2016. [cited 2019 April 26]. Available from: https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307090/all/Arterial_Gas_Embolism__Age_.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - ELEC T1 - Arterial Gas Embolism (Age) ID - 307090 ED - Rosen,Peter, ED - Shayne,Philip, ED - Barkin,Adam Z, ED - Wolfe,Richard E, ED - Hayden,Stephen R, ED - Barkin,Roger M, ED - Schaider,Jeffrey J, BT - 5-Minute Emergency Consult UR - https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307090/all/Arterial_Gas_Embolism__Age_ PB - Lippincott Williams & Wilkins ET - 5 DB - Emergency Central DP - Unbound Medicine ER -