What is the role of mechanical insufflation or infusion in the etiology of venous air embolism (VAE)?

Updated: Dec 30, 2017
  • Author: Brenda L Natal, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Erik D Schraga, MD  more...
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Mechanical insufflation or infusion is another cause of venous air emboli. Several different procedures involve the use of insufflation, including arthroscopic procedures, CO2 hysteroscopy, laparoscopy, urethral procedures, and orogenital sexual activity during pregnancy (by entering veins of the myometrium during pregnancy and/or after delivery). [1, 22]

Inadvertent infusion of air can also occur during the injection of IV contrast agents for CT, [14, 15, 31]  angiography, [2]  and cardiac catheterization, as well as during cardiac ablation procedures. [22, 32]  Little information exists on the incidence and the complication rate associated with iatrogenic air embolization caused by injections of contrast medium during CT examinations; however, this is a potentially serious complication, which could be catastrophic. Few case reports exist, and all agree that the actual number of such cases is probably higher than reported.

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