The use of mechanical ventilation to support a neonate with acute respiratory distress can result in systemic air embolism, which can be fatal.



(1) neonate with respiratory distress syndrome, often premature

(2) ventilatory support, including CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure)

(3) sudden clinical deterioration

(4) air emboli seen on imaging studies


Affected infants may show evidence of:

(1) an air leak

(2) interstitial emphysema

(3) pneumonmediastinum, pneumopericardium, other


Differential diagnosis:

(1) other sources of air emboli (umbilical catheter, etc)

(2) other complication of ventilatory support


Newer techniques of ventilatory support use lung-protective strategies that reduce the risk of air embolism and barotraumas.


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