Clinical Presentation, Diagnosis, and Management of Air Embolism During Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography

Muhammad Haisum Maqsood, Nayab Mirza, Muhammad Asad Hanif, Hira Hanif, Maleeha Saleem, Muhammad Arqam Maqsood, Ilsa Fatima, Muhammad Moiz Tahir


Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is a minimally invasive procedure that is widely used by endoscopists and has a robust therapeutic profile. It uses endoscopy and imaging for a variety of diagnostic as well as therapeutic purposes. It is used for the management of a lot of pancreaticobiliary diseases such as obstructive jaundice, obstruction related to bile ducts, pancreatic biliary tumors, and traumatic or iatrogenic damage to the bile ducts. Other therapeutic interventions that can be done via ERCP include sphincterotomy, dilation of strictures, removal of biliary stones and placement of stents. Air embolism presents with cardiovascular, pulmonary, and neurologic signs and symptoms. Treatment of air embolism should be started early in suspected cases, and it should be in the differential diagnoses of various complications secondary to high risk of ERCP, especially if a cardiopulmonary compromise is present. Air embolism is rare but a serious complication associated with ERCP. The physicians must keep this in mind while performing ERCP in patients with predisposing risk factors. This review highlights the mechanism, causes, risk factors, pathophysiology, clinical signs, diagnostic modalities, treatment, and preventive measures to deal with this catastrophic complication.

Gastroenterol Res. 2019;12(6):283-287


Air embolism; Pancreaticobiliary diseases; Endoscopy; Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography; Complications; Therapeutic procedure; Precordial Doppler ultrasound

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