What is the role of lab tests in the workup 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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Answer

Laboratory tests are neither sensitive nor specific for the diagnosis of venous air embolism (VAE). The only indication for obtaining routine laboratory tests is to evaluate the associated end-organ injury resulting from air embolism.

Extravasation of fluid into inflamed tissue may result in laboratory findings consistent with intravascular depletion.

Arterial blood gas samples often show hypoxemia, hypercapnia, and metabolic acidosis secondary to right-to-left pulmonary shunting.

Patients may develop a clinical picture similar to that of classic pulmonary embolism, with hypoxia, decreased PCO2 levels, and respiratory alkalosis.


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