Clinical Considerations Concerning Detection of Venous Air Embolism

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Venous air embolism during neurosurgical procedures (detected by Doppler ultrasound and aspiration via a right atrial catheter) was noted in 100 of 400 patients in the sitting position, 5 of 60 patients in the lateral position, 7 of 48 patients in the supine position, and 1 of 10 individuals monitored in the prone position. We confirmed venous air embolism in many of these cases by using serial technetium-macroaggregated albumin lung scans. Gravitational gradients from the venous portal of entrance to the right side of the heart were as small as 5.0 cm, with aspiration of 200 ml of air occurring. Doppler ultrasonic air bubble detection and aspiration through a previously inserted right atrial catheter are critical factors in the diagnosis and treatment of this condition.

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