Incidence of Venous Air Embolism during Craniectomy for Craniosynostosis Repair

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Abstract

Background

Investigations to determine the incidence of venous air embolism in children undergoing craniectomy for craniosynostosis repair have been limited, although venous air embolism has been suspected as the cause of hemodynamic instability and sometimes death. A precordial Doppler ultrasonic probe is an accepted method for detection of venous air embolism and is readily available at most institutions.

Methods

A prospective study was conducted using a precordial Doppler ultrasonic probe in children undergoing craniectomy for craniosynostosis repair. The Doppler signal was continuously monitored intraoperatively for characteristic changes of venous air embolism. A recording was made of the precordial Doppler probe pulses, which was later reviewed by a neuroanesthesiologist, blinded to the intraoperative events. This information was correlated with the intraoperative events and episodes of venous air embolism were graded.

Results

Twenty-three patients were enrolled in the study during the 2-yr study period. Nineteen patients (82.6%) demonstrated 64 episodes of venous air embolism; six patients (31.6%) had hypotension associated with venous air embolism. Thirty-two episodes of hypotension were demonstrated in eight patients (34.7%). None of the patients developed cardiovascular collapse.

Conclusion

The incidence of venous air embolism in our study of 23 children undergoing craniectomy for craniosynostosis was 82.6%. Though most episodes of venous air embolism during craniosynostosis repair are without hemodynamic consequences, the preemptive placement of a precordial Doppler ultrasonic probe is a noninvasive, economic, and safe method for the detection of venous air embolism. Prompt recognition may allow for the early initiation of therapy, thereby decreasing morbidity and mortality rates related to venous air embolism.

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