What is the role of CT and MRI 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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Computed tomography (CT) can detect air emboli in the central venous system (especially the axillary and subclavian veins), right ventricle, and/or pulmonary artery. Small (1</ref> [11] CT of the head may show intracerebral air, cerebral edema, or infarction. Chest CT in lung trauma may show underlying conditions such as pneumothorax, hemothorax, or emphysematous blebs that may have led to air embolism but is not helpful for initial diagnosis. [40]

MRI of the brain may show increased water concentration in affected tissues, but this finding alone may not be reliable for the detection of gas emboli.

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