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Rivista di Anestesia, Rianimazione, Terapia Antalgica e Terapia Intensiva

Official Journal of the Italian Society of Anesthesiology, Analgesia, Resuscitation and Intensive Care
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Minerva Anestesiologica 2009 May;75(5):275-9


lingua: Inglese

Probable case of vascular air embolism during endonasal CO2 laser surgery

Osti D., Ferri E., Caggese G., Rinaldi S., Guberti A., Zoppellari R.

Department of Anesthesia and Intensive Care, Azienda Ospedaliero-Universitaria S. Anna, Ferrara, Italy


Laser surgery in narrow luminal cavities can lead to venous air embolism (VAE) due to high pressure or high flow clearing/cooling systems. We report the first case of initially misdiagnosed VAE during endonasal CO2 laser surgery. A 56-year-old patient underwent uvulopalatopharyngoplasty and septoplasty with bilateral CO2 laser turbinoplasty for turbinate hypertrophy and uvula deviation. At the end of the procedure (performed on the right nasal side), the patient presented with an abrupt decrease in end tidal carbon dioxide concentration (EtCO2), oxygen saturation (SpO2), and arterial pressure and experienced cardiac arrest. The patient was then successfully resuscitated and transferred to the ICU. After excluding pulmonary embolic disease with angio-CT scan, the event was interpreted as VAE due to the clearing/cooling gas flow of the CO2 laser probe. Although capnometry cannot be considered specific to diagnose VAE, the occurrence of cardiac arrest preceded by an abrupt decrease in EtCO2 and SpO2 and the rapid resolution of symptoms after resuscitation led us to retrospectively suspect that VAE was the cause. The literature reports cases of VAE during laser surgery in narrow luminal cavities. When operating in narrow luminal cavities, using a liquid instead of a gas as a clearing/cooling system for the distal end of the probe in laser instruments and avoiding direct contact with tissues is advisable. Anesthesiologists, surgeons and the nursing staff practicing endoscopic laser surgery should have wide knowledge of the risks linked to this technique in order to minimize risk to the patient and to manage VAE should it eventually occur.

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