Air embolism case study
The occurrence of air embolism is highly related to medical operations, and air embolism can cause sudden death. Such situations require attention in forensic work. This article reports two cases of iatrogenic air embolism confirmed by autopsy. In case 1, air embolism occurred after hydrogen peroxide was used to irrigate and disinfect a wound on the patient’s left forearm. Approximately 90 ml of 3% hydrogen peroxide solution was used in case 1, and this volume can produce approximately 890 ml of oxygen by complete decomposition, which is far more than the average lethal air embolism volume. Attention should be given to the risk of air embolism when using hydrogen peroxide for irrigation and disinfection. In case 2, air embolism occurred during left ureteroscopy and stent placement. Due to inappropriate processing, the normal saline pump infused air into the patient at a high pressure of 120 mmHg. Based on our autopsy findings, we discuss the pathways of arterial air embolism and cerebral air embolism. In addition to the air entrainment volume and accumulation rate, the location of air accumulation also significantly impacts the risk of air embolism. After an arterial air embolus develops into a coronary and/or cerebral air embolus, the lethal air volume drops to only a few milliliters.
Wu T, Wang Q, Zhao M, Zhu Y, Zhang L, Li Y, Li J. Two cases of fatal iatrogenic air embolism confirmed by autopsies. J Forensic Leg Med. 2021 Jun 29;82:102209. doi: 10.1016/j.jflm.2021.102209. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34229151.