Barotrauma and air embolism in hyperbaric oxygen therapy

H. K. Wolf, R. E. Moon, P. R. Mitchell, P. C. Burger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


A 69-year-old woman underwent hyperbaric oxygen therapy because of a nonhealing ulcer of her foot. During decompression, she developed a left-sided hemiplegia and confusion. Recompression resulted in transient neurologic improvement, but she eventually became comatose. Ventricular dysrhythmias developed and she died without regaining consciousness 17 h after onset of symptoms. An autopsy revealed diffuse interstitial pulmonary fibrosis with severe paracicatricial emphysema, chronic interstitial inflammation, and chronic bronchitis with abundant intrabronchial mucus. There was extensive multifocal ischemic injury of the cerebral cortex. The hippocampi, basal ganglia, and cerebellum were spared. Scattered acute myofiber necrosis was present in the heart. Clinical presentation and autopsy findings strongly support the diagnosis of air embolism and illustrate a potential risk of hyperbaric oxygen therapy in patients with preexisting pulmonary disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)149-153
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1990
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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