How is an air embolism detected and treated?
Air embolism is a medical emergency that can lead to death if it is not recognized and promptly treated.
The manifestations of air embolism depend on the positioning of the patient, and, thus, where the air embolism travels to. In seated patients, air enters the cerebral circulation, leading to central nervous system events, including loss of consciousness and death. In recumbent patients, air enters the cardiopulmonary system, leading to dyspnea, cough, arrhythmias, chest tightness, and acute cardiac and neurologic events.
This emergency should be managed by immediately clamping the blood line, stopping the blood pump, placing the patient in a recumbent position on the left side with the head and chest tilted downward, and administering 100% oxygen by mask or endotracheal tube.