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17 April 2024 : Case report  USA

Intrapulmonary Shunting and Paradoxical Air Embolism in Liver Transplantation: A Case Report

Unusual clinical course, Challenging differential diagnosis, Management of emergency care

Bradly Brown1AEF, Peter E. Frasco1E, Alexander D. Stoker1AEF*

DOI: 10.12659/AJCR.943042

Am J Case Rep 2024; 25:e943042



BACKGROUND: A paradoxical air embolism (PAE) occurs when air entering the central venous circulation reaches the systemic circulation, occurring through an intracardiac shunt or intrapulmonary shunting. Patients presenting for liver transplantation often have intrapulmonary shunting due to pulmonary arterial vasodilation, even in the absence of hepatopulmonary syndrome. Here, we present a case of hemodynamic collapse believed to be caused by a PAE, which was diagnosed intraoperatively with transesophageal echocardiography (TEE).

CASE REPORT: A 60-year-old man who was diagnosed with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis cirrhosis presented for deceased donor orthotopic liver transplantation with utilization of normothermic machine perfusion. Following reperfusion of the liver allograft, TEE detected intrapulmonary shunting resulting in air within the left atrium, left ventricle, and ascending aorta. The patient developed severe biventricular dysfunction with ST-segment changes on electrocardiography monitoring and became acutely hypotensive with significant hepatic congestion 5 min after liver reperfusion. High doses of inotropic and vasopressor support were used as well as inhaled nitric oxide. The patient recovered after 30 min of medical management. The liver transplantation operation was successfully completed and the patient was discharged home on postoperative day 7.

CONCLUSIONS: Intracardiac air at the time of reperfusion during liver transplantation can originate from the donor allograft and result in PAE in the setting of intrapulmonary shunting. PAE can result in intracoronary air and should be considered in cases of hemodynamic instability in liver transplantation, especially if air is seen within the left atrium, left ventricle, and ascending aorta.

Keywords: Echocardiography, Embolism, Air, Liver Transplantation

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American Journal of Case Reports eISSN: 1941-5923
American Journal of Case Reports eISSN: 1941-5923