Background: Iatrogenic cerebral arterial gas embolism (CAGE) is an uncommon but potentially a fatal condition. Hyperbaric oxygen (HBO2) therapy is the only definitive treatment for patients with CAGE presenting with acute neurologic deficits. Methods: We reviewed medical records and neuroimaging of consecutive CAGE patients treated with HBO2 at a state referral hyperbaric facility over a 22-year period. We analyzed the effect of demographics, source of intra-arterial gas, signs and symptoms, results of imaging studies, time between event and HBO2 treatment, and response to HBO2 treatment in 36 consecutive patients. Favorable outcome was defined by complete resolution or improvement of CAGE signs and symptoms at 24 h after HBO2 treatment. Unfavorable outcome was defined by unchanged or worsened neurologic signs and symptoms or in hospital death. Results: A total of 26 (72%) of the 36 patients had favorable outcome. Patients with favorable outcome were younger compared to those with unfavorable outcome (mean age [years, SD] 44.7 ± 17.8 vs. 58.1 ± 24.1, p = 0.08). Cardiopulmonary symptoms were significantly more common in CAGE related to venous source of gas compared to arterial source (p = 0.024) but did not influence the rate of favorable outcomes. Adjusted multivariate analysis demonstrated that time from event to HBO2 ≤6 h (positively) and the presence of infarct/edema on head computerized tomography (CT)/magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) before HBO2 (negatively) were independent predictors of favorable outcome at 24 h after HBO2 treatment [odds ratio (OR) 9.08 confidence interval (CI) (1.13-72.69), p = 0.0376, and (OR) 0.034 (CI) (0.002-0.58), p = 0.0200, respectively]. Two of the 36 patients were treated with thrombolytics because of acute focal deficits and suspected ischemia - one with intravenous and the second with intra-arterial thrombolysis. The latter patient developed fatal intracerebral hemorrhage. Conclusions: A high proportion of CAGE patients treated with HBO2 had favorable outcomes. Time-to-HBO2 ≤6 h increased the odds of favorable outcome, whereas the presence of infarct/edema on CT/MRI scan before HBO 2 reduced the odds of a favorable outcome. Timely diagnosis and differentiation from thrombo-embolic ischemic events appears to be an important determinant of successful HBO2 treatment.
- Air embolism
- Hyperbaric oxygen
- Iatrogenic cerebral gas embolism