Annals of Clinical Cardiology

: 2022  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 27--29

Massive cerebral air embolism due to aortography: A case presentation

Ozkoc Alptekin1, Aydogdu Ozlem2,  
1 Departmant of Cardiology, Famagusta State Hospital, Famagusta, North Cyprus, Turkey
2 Department of Nursing, Faculty of Health Sciences, Eastern Mediterranean University, Famagusta, North Cyprus, Turkey

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Aydogdu Ozlem
Department of Nursing, Faculty of Health Sciences, Eastern Mediterranean University, Via Mersin 10, Famagusta, North Cyprus


Though rare, air embolism as a serious complication may occur in patients undergoing coronary angiography and aortography. If gas embolism is diagnosed, hyperbaric oxygen therapy should be initiated immediately after the air source is cutoff and vital functions are stabilized. In this case presentation, a patient went into a coma after a massive iatrogenic cerebral air embolism that developed during the aortography procedure. The patient was discharged with hyperbaric oxygen therapy without any sequelae.

How to cite this article:
Alptekin O, Ozlem A. Massive cerebral air embolism due to aortography: A case presentation.Ann Clin Cardiol 2022;4:27-29

How to cite this URL:
Alptekin O, Ozlem A. Massive cerebral air embolism due to aortography: A case presentation. Ann Clin Cardiol [serial online] 2022 [cited 2023 May 29 ];4:27-29
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Full Text


Air embolism is the passage of air sacs into the arterial or venous system. It may develop as a result of accidental injection of air from the syringe into the circulatory system, air passage through the central venous catheter, surgical interventions (especially in surgical procedures in the sitting position), deep diving, and angiographic procedures.[1],[2] Depending on the amount of air and the interaction area, gas embolism may cause serious morbidity and mortality. If a patient is diagnosed with gas embolism, hyperbaric oxygen therapy should be initiated immediately after the air source is cutoff and vital functions are stabilized.[3],[4] Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is breathing 100% oxygen under increased atmospheric pressure. It aims to oxygenate the ischemic region caused by air embolism and minimize or completely eliminate the damage.[4],[5],[6]

Though rare, air embolism may occur in patients undergoing coronary angiography and aortography.[7] In this case presentation, massive cerebral air embolism developed during the aortography procedure and the patient fell into a coma. The patient was discharged without any sequelae after repetitive hyperbaric oxygen therapy.[8],[9],[10]

 Case Report

A 69-year-old male patient was admitted to the cardiology clinic with the complaints of exertional dyspnea and angina pectoris for the past few weeks. The patient had chronic renal failure and had been undergoing peritoneal dialysis since 2014. In addition, the endovascular aneurysm repair treatment was applied to the patient due to an advanced abdominal aneurysm. Coronary angiography from the right radial artery was performed due to an ischemic finding in the electrocardiogram angina pectoris. The patient was diagnosed with nonobstructive coronary artery disease. Due to a history of aortic aneurysm, aortography was performed with a pigtail catheter and a contrast injector pump. Accidentally, a significant amount of air entered the ascending aorta of the patient. Because of the opaque substance, bottle of the aortic pump device was not inverted, and the air remained above and was accidentally injected into the patient. The patient lost consciousness immediately. There was no problem with the hemodynamics of the patient. Glasgow coma scale was 3 during the first neurological examination. Cranial computed tomography (CT) showed multiple air sacs in the right watershed area [Figure 1] and [Figure 2]. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy was initiated immediately.{Figure 1}{Figure 2}

On day 1, hyperbaric oxygen therapy was performed utilizing the Treatment of the US Navy Dive Manual. The patient had frequent seizures in the pressure cabin. Benzodiazepines were administered to control the seizure attacks. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy continued for 15 days and was performed in accordance with the operating standards proposed in the US Navy Treatment [Table 9]. On day 3, the patient opened his eyes and began to respond to painful stimulus. Clinical improvements were observed on the following days. During this period, the patient received physical therapy. On day 15, the patient started walking without any assistance and was discharged in the following days without any neurological sequelae.


The increase in the number of vascular diseases and technological advancements resulted with an increase in the number of angiographic procedures. Air embolism is a serious complication with severe mortality and morbidity rates, which may occur during or after angiographic procedures. Since the phenomenon is rare, the number of studies on air embolism in angiographic procedures is limited. However, cerebral air embolism should be taken into consideration in case of abnormality in the neurological functions of the patient during or after angiographic procedures. When a neurological abnormality occurs, cerebral imaging (CT/magnetic resonance imaging) should be performed and hyperbaric oxygen therapy should be initiated immediately after the diagnosis. Delayed hyperbaric oxygen therapy deepens cerebral ischemia and may cause irreversible tissue loss, resulting in neurological sequelae or death. However, since hyperbaric oxygen therapy is not available in all centers, initiation of the treatment is delayed, which, in turn, results with an increase in mortality and morbidity.


The purpose of this case presentation was to demonstrate the importance of immediate hyperbaric oxygen therapy performed in a patient with cerebral air embolism. We have not found any studies that dealt with the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy for the treatment of severe and massive cerebral embolism, which developed during the aortography procedure. Thus, the findings of this case presentation may contribute to the literature.

Declaration of patient consent

The authors certify that they have obtained all appropriate patient consent forms. In the form the patient(s) has/have given his/her/their consent for his/her/their images and other clinical information to be reported in the journal. The patients understand that their names and initials will not be published and due efforts will be made to conceal their identity, but anonymity cannot be guaranteed.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


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