Medical Air bubble in blood circulation

  1. i remember once seeing on tv (fiction) how a man threatened another with a syringe and said he would inject the other with air and that 2 ccm would be enough to kill, if i remember correctly

    what happens if air gets into your circulatory system ?

    i imagine it would be ok until it is pumped into the heart and occupies the space needed for blood to flow through

    any comments ?
  2. jcsd
  3. Moonbear

    Moonbear 11,955
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    Gold Member

    Air in circulation won't kill you quickly the way the movies depict it. It would be more like a diver getting decompression sickness, where the air would impede blood flow in various organs...slowly...and blood clots may also form.
  4. berkeman

    Staff: Mentor

    This page has a decent discussion of air embolisms:

    And what they say about AGE (arterial gas embolisms) is true -- they are treated very seriously. That's why the immediate first aid for a cut involving a carotid artery (in your neck) is an occlusive dressing of some sort -- air can get sucked into the carotid artery wound, and cause very serious issues with the brain.
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2008
  5. It depends on the amount of air, a little bit won't be to bad but there is a certain amount that could kill you. It used to be an issue with blood transfusions before they switched from using glass bottles to plastic bags, sometimes air would get into the infusion line and cause an air embolism.
  6. Moonbear

    Moonbear 11,955
    Staff Emeritus
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    Gold Member'd want to put an occlusive dressing onto a large arterial wound pretty quickly to avoid bleeding out too. The carotid sheath also extends all the way down into the chest, and is a pathway for air to get into the pleural cavity to cause a collapsed lung if one has a serious neck wound.
  7. lisab

    lisab 3,188
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    Years ago I had surgery on my shoulder. When the nurse was changing my IV bag, I noticed what seemed to me to be a large bubble moving down the line, heading for my vein. I just about freaked out!! She said, oh, don't worry, it won't hurt a thing. Happens all the time.

    It was over 20 years ago, so she must have been right.
  8. berkeman

    Staff: Mentor

    Interesting, I didn't know that. Thanks Moonbear.
  9. One test for a Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO) is done via Echocardiogram, saline, and air.

    A mixture of X amount of saline is mixed with a cc of air and agitated through two syringes. The ingected solution creates a bolus of "bubbles" that quickly enter the right atrium with the potential to pass through a PFO at the interatrial septum.

    It takes a relatively high volume of air in a single bolus to cause any real problem. A person would most likely have a higher probability of dying from an infection through improper sterility than an air bubble in the OP's situation.
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