Boerhaave Syndrome Presenting as Tension Pneumothorax: First Reported North American Case

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Tension pneumothorax is a rare and potentially life-threatening clinical complication. A 43-year-old Caucasian woman with type 1 diabetes mellitus presented with nausea and retching and examination revealed dehydration. Laboratory parameters were consistent with a diagnosis of diabetic ketoacidosis, which responded to therapy. Suddenly, 30 hours later, she developed cardiorespiratory compromise due to a tension pneumothorax. After emergent decompression and catheter placement, computerized tomographic scan of the chest demonstrated esophageal-pleural fistula confirming Boerhaave syndrome as the etiology for the pneumothorax. The patient underwent emergent esophagectomy with pleural washout with a subsequent gastric pull-up surgery. Boerhaave syndrome frequently presents atypically with chest pain, dyspnea, and nausea. It communicates with the left pleural space in 80% to 90% of cases, but <5% of cases involve the right pleural cavity. Unexplained and rapidly progressive pleural effusions have been associated with this entity. Only 4 cases of Boerhaave syndrome causing tension pneumothorax have been reported in the literature so far.

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