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Case report of CT-guided lung biopsy complicated by air embolism

Rationale: Cerebral arterial air embolism is a rare but potentially fatal complication of computed tomography (CT) guided lung biopsy. Hyperbaric oxygen (HBO2) is the first line of treatment for arterial gas embolism and needs to be administered immediately after the event. Early HBO2 can reduce the mor- tality rate of cerebrovascular air embolism.

Patient concerns: A 65-year-old woman was diagnosed with a pulmonary nodule with a diameter of approximately 0.8 cm in the right lower lung. The patient developed consciousness, convulsions, and arrhythmia after CT-guided lung biopsy.

Diagnosis: Cranial CT revealed arborizing/linearly distributed gas in the right temporal, parietal, and occipital lobes and left frontal and parietal lobes. Chest CT showed a small amount of pneumothorax. Interventions: The patient was administered HBO2 twice and received other medical treatments and bone flap decompressive craniectomy.

Outcomes: The patient developed multiple acute cerebral infarctions and even brain herniation complicated with acute myocardial infarction. Three months after the event, the patient’s consciousness was still “open eyes coma” and GCS score was 8t points (E4VtM4). Head CT showed multiple cerebral infarctions and softening lesions. ECG showed sinus rhythm, normal range of the electrocardiogram axis, T wave change, and low voltage on the limb leads.

Lessons: Cerebral arterial air embolism is a serious complication of CT-guided lung biopsy. The recommended standard HBO2 should be used as early as possible. However, too severe an injury caused by severe arterial air embolism may not be significantly improved by one to two sessions of HBO2.

Keywords: air embolism; cerebral ischemic injury; complication; computed tomography-guided lung biopsy; hyperbaric oxygen