Case Report: Lightning-Induced Pneumomediastinum

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Abstract

We present the case of a 41-year-old woman who was fatally injured during a witnessed lightning strike event and in whom autopsy revealed the unusual keraunopathological finding of overt pneumomediastinum. The possible pathophysiological mechanism(s) of causation of this phenomenon are discussed, with specific reference also to the “Macklin” effect and the role of blast overpressures associated with lightning strike. It is suggested that the latter may lead to sudden alveolar rupture, with subsequent rapid tracking of air along bronchovascular sheaths in a centripetal manner toward the hilum of the lung and thus into the mediastinum. A review of the blast literature suggests that this victim would have been exposed to a blast pressure wave of approximately 29-psi (200 kPa) to 72-psi (500 kPa) magnitude.

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