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Infant Death Due to Air Embolism from Peripheral Venous Infusion

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An otherwise healthy male infant was brought to the hospital because the mother suspected superficial infection at the operative site 5 days after an inguinal hernia repair. He was admitted to the pediatric unit overnight to be evaluated by his surgeon the next morning. When a venous infusion of maintenance fluids was started, the patient immediately went into cardio-respiratory arrest and was pronounced dead after resuscitation efforts failed. Subsequently, air collections were found in both venous and arterial circulations, including the splenoportal system. Detailed review of the clinical presentation and course, laboratory results, radiological, and pathological findings, along with a review of pertinent literature provides an explanation for the death by air embolism. Apparent inconsistent findings both radiographically and at autopsy are resolved. The mechanism of distribution of air to both systemic and splenoportal circulation is discussed. We believe this to be only the eighth case reported in English-language literature of infantile death from peripheral venous infusion. In all age groups, we find only six other cases in the English-language literature of gas found concomitantly in both the systemic and portal venous systems.
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Keywords: air embolism; embolism; forensic science; infantile death from peripheral air; splenoportal air

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: 11570 San Jose Blvd., Suite 20, Jacksonville, FL 32223-7907. 2: Department of Radiology, University of South Alabama Medical Center, Mobile, AL. 3: Carlow University, Pittsburgh, PA.

Publication date: January 1, 2007

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