Background: Systemic air embolism is a rare, however potentially fatal, low incidence, complication to CT-guided transthoracic needle biopsy of lung lesions.
Purpose: The purpose of this review of case reports and series was to pool data about this rare complication and glance for a pattern or similarities in the patients' initial symptoms and course, as well as the management of the patients in relation to current guidelines.
Material and methods: PubMed was searched for case reports and case series about systemic air embolisms following CT-guided transthoracic needle biopsy of lung lesions from inception to November 2021. A reviewer screened the results for eligibility and included studies which reported at least two outcomes of interest. Data was extracted by one author and a descriptive analysis was conducted.
Results: Of 1,136 studies screened, 83 were eligible for inclusion involving 97 patients. The mean age was 64.8±11.7 years and ≈60% of the patients were men. In 15 cases the outcome was fatal, and most of the fatal cases (n = 12) had cardiac arrest as the primary initial symptom. In addition to conventional oxygen therapy, 34 patients received hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and in 30 cases the physician in charge chose to change the patient from standard supine position to - most often - Trendelenburg position.
Conclusion: No similarities were found that could lead to more rapid diagnosis or more correct management. The staff should keep systemic air embolisms in mind, when more common complications are ruled out, and consider hyperbaric oxygen therapy in case of suspicion.