Intravenous air embolism


Intravenous literature: von Jürgensonn, S. (2010) Prevention and management of air in an IV infusion system. British Journal of Nursing. 19(10 Suppl), p.S28 – S30.


When air enters the circulatory system of the human body it can cause an air embolism. Air in the venous circulation will enter the right side of the heart where it may cause right ventricular outflow tract obstruction and acute pulmonary hypertension from pulmonary vasoconstriction. This compromises the pulmonary venous return to the left side of the heart, resulting in significant reduction in cardiac output and cardiovascular collapse. Air can pass into the left side of the heart via a patent foramen ovale or a septal defect. From the left side of the heart air will then enter the arterial circulation where it may embolize cerebral or coronary arteries with fatal consequences. Prevention of air embolism is therefore of utmost importance.


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