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Case Reports in Pulmonology
Volume 2016, Article ID 4053748, 3 pages
Case Report

Systemic Air Embolism Associated with Pleural Pigtail Chest Tube Insertion

1Internal Medicine, Marshall University, Huntington, WV 25701, USA
2Infectious Disease, Marshall University, Huntington, WV 25701, USA
3Neurosurgery, Marshall University, Huntington, WV 25701, USA
4Pulmonary, Marshall University, Huntington, WV 25701, USA

Received 11 February 2016; Revised 12 July 2016; Accepted 26 July 2016

Academic Editor: Alan D. L. Sihoe

Copyright © 2016 Emad Alkhankan et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Pleural pigtail catheter placement is associated with many complications including pneumothorax, hemorrhage, and chest pain. Air embolism is a known but rare complication of pleural pigtail catheter insertion and has a high risk of occurrence with positive pressure ventilation. In this case report, we present a 50-year-old male with bilateral pneumonia who developed a pneumothorax while on mechanical ventilation with continuous positive airway pressure mode. During the placement of the pleural pigtail catheter to correct the pneumothorax, the patient developed a sudden left sided body weakness and became unresponsive. An air embolism was identified in the right main cerebral artery, which was fatal.