What is the role of positive-pressure ventilation 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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Positive-pressure ventilation during mechanical ventilation places patients at risk for barotrauma and, subsequently, arterial and/or venous air emboli. [1, 3]  Entry of gas into the circulation may result if violation of pulmonary vascular integrity occurs at the same time alveoli rupture from overdistention of the airspaces. This complication can occur in the setting of various diagnoses; however, it is most frequently reported in patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome and in premature neonates with hyaline membrane disease. For these same reasons, SCUBA divers can also have VAE from alveolar distention.

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