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Air embolism: treatment

Treatment of air embolism includes discontinuation of nitrous oxide, aspiration through a right heart catheter, adequate supplementation of inspired oxygen, and prevention of further air entry into the circulation (flooding the field with saline, jugular compression and lowering the head in neurosurgical cases). Previous studies have shown that left lateral decubitus position may be effective by allowing air to move toward the right ventricular apex, thereby relieving the obstruction of the pulmonary outflow tract.


  1. T M Durant, J Long, M J Oppenheimer Pulmonary (venous) air embolism. Am. Heart J.: 1947, 33(3);269-81 PubMed Link
  2. J A Ericsson, J D Gottlieb, R B Sweet Closed-chest cardiac massage in the treatment of venous air embolism. N. Engl. J. Med.: 1964, 270;1353-4 PubMed Link