Definition: an embolism caused by air bubbles in the vascular system; venous air embolism can result from the introduction of air through intravenous lines, especially central lines, and generally must be substantial to block pulmonary blood flow and cause symptoms; arterial air embolism is also usually iatrogenic, caused by cardiopulmonary bypass or other intravascular interventions, occurs rarely after penetrating lung injury; small amounts of arterial air can cause death by blockage of coronary and/or cerebral arteries; small bubbles introduced into the venous system may similarly cause symptoms if they reach the arterial side.
Synonym(s): gas embolism
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