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Gas embolism: an exceptional complication of radial arterial catheterization

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We report a rare complication of radial arterial catheterization in a 74-year-old man who had undergone retroperitoneal surgery for an infra-renal aortic aneurysm. A right subclavian venous catheter and a right radial artery catheter were inserted for hemodynamic monitoring. Results: 

The patient suddenly went into a coma, with dyspnea and bradycardia, 1 day postsurgery, as a result of a cerebral gas embolism produced by the accidental entry of pressurized air into the artery via the arterial catheter. Cerebral Magnetic Resonance Imaging revealed multiple, diffuse brain lesions. Six months later the patient still had a left hemiparesis and a cognitive deficit. He walks with assistance. Conclusion: 

Misuse of an arterial catheter can lead to a severe gas embolism. The infusion system used to flush arterial catheters should be checked regularly to ensure it contains no gas.

Keywords: Gas embolism; hyperbaric oxygen treatment; iatrogenic; post operative complication; stroke

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Réanimation Médicale, CHU Angers, 2: Service d'Anesthésie, Clinique Saint Joseph, Angers, France

Publication date: 2004-10-01

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