Air embolism (patient information)

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Air embolism


What are the symptoms?

What are the causes?

Who is at highest risk?


When to seek urgent medical care?

Treatment options

Where to find medical care for Air embolism?


What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?

Possible complications

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]

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Air embolism is a rare but fatal complication of certain surgical procedures and can occur during deep sea diving. Air embolism is an air bubble in the body.

If an air embolism occurs during deep sea diving, it is called Decompression Sickness (DCS), Caissons Disease, or "the bends".

What are the symptoms of Air embolism?

What causes Air embolism?

  • Entrapment of an air bubble in a blood vessel can impede blood flow to and from an organ and cause dysfunction.
    • For example and air bubble impeding blood flow to the brain can cause seizures, headache and a variety of other symptoms

Who is at highest risk?

Air embolism is mostly a complication of certain medical procedures:

Other Risk Factors include:

  • Deep sea diving
  • Blunt chest trauma


Air embolism is suspected in patients with a history of :

There is no one test for air embolism, but certain labs and procedures can help point to a diagnosis:

When to seek urgent medical care?

Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number if you suspect you have an air embolism.

  • It is a Medical Emergency

Treatment options

  • The main therapy for air embolism is high flow oxygen therapy.
  • If air lodges in the heart, aspiration of air is a treatment option.

Where to find medical care for Air embolism

Medical care for an air embolism can be found at your nearest emergency department.

What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?

Air embolism is a Medical Emergency and should be treated immediately.

With immediate and rapid treatment, patients can expect full recovery.

Possible complications

There are a variety of complications that can occur depending on the location of the air embolism:

It not treated immediately it can be fatal.