The effective use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) in the management of air embolism – rare and potentially fatal acute complication of hemodialysis
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Warmian-Masurian Cancer Center of the Ministry of the Interior and Administration’s Hospital in Olsztyn, Poland
Department of Internal Medicine and Nephrodiabetology, Medical University of Lodz, Poland
Department of Radiology, Military Institute of Medicine, Warsaw, Poland
Department of Hyperbaric Medicine, Military Institute of Medicine, Warsaw, Poland
Military Institute of Aviation Medicine, Center of Aeromedical Examination and Occupational Medicine
Department of Internal Diseases, Nephrology and Dialysotherapy, Military Institute of Medicine, Warsaw, Poland
Submission date: 2021-03-22
Final revision date: 2021-05-30
Acceptance date: 2021-05-31
Online publication date: 2021-11-09
Corresponding author
Sebastian Spaleniak   

Department of Internal Medicine and Nephrodiabetology, Medical University of Lodz, Żeromskiego 113, 90-549 Lodz, Poland.
Pol. Ann. Med. 2022;29(2):216-220
Air embolism is a rare and potentially fatal acute complication. Its causes are mainly iatrogenic. It requires rapid diagnostics and treatment, including hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT).

The main aim was to present the potential causes of air embolism during hemodialysis (HD) and show the importance of quick clinical diagnosis and therapy – on the base of clinical case.

Case study:
65-years old male patient with diabetic nephropathy was treated with HD. The permanent dialysis catheters were used as vascular access due to the difficulties with formation of arteriovenous fistula. The massive air embolism occurred during one of the dialysis sessions. The clinical suspicion was confirmed by CT scan which showed the presence of gas bubbles in abdominal arteries. The cause of air embolism was sensor failure. The presence of patent foramen ovale (PFO) with reversed leakage caused the air ingress into arterial system. Patient was qualified for the immediate hyperbaric therapy. The quick improvement in the condition of the patient took place.

Results and discussion:
The massive air embolism may occur in HD patients, particularly in those who are dialyzed with use of catheters as vascular access. This rare complication should be considered in the case of sudden worsening of patient condition during HD procedure. The use of CT scan to confirm the air embolism suspicion and availability of HBOT are necessary for successful management of this complication.

HBOT is a safe and effective method of air embolism treatment in HD patients.

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