Air embolism in spinal surgery

Richard E. McCarthy, John E. Lonstein, John D. Mertz, Stephen D. Kuslich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


We present two cases of fatal venous air embolism that occurred in previously healthy adolescents during posterior spine fusion and instrumentation for scoliosis. Previously recorded cases in the literature have been rare and only briefly discussed. Air embolism has been a complication noted in the anesthesia and neurosurgical literature, occurring primarily in total hip patients and those patients undergoing neurosurgical procedures in a sitting position. An examination of the pathophysiology of air embolism in posterior spinal procedures would indicate the use of properly placed central lines and end-expiratory CO2 monitoring as the primary modes of detection and treatment considering the potentially fatal risk factors for spinal patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-5
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Spinal Disorders
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1990


  • Air embolism
  • Complication
  • Posterior spine fusion
  • Scoliosis

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