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The entry of air into the blood stream can be a serious complication in large blood transfusions, liver transplants, following other surgery, or following trauma to the neck or chest. Rarely, it complicates therapeutic abortion.
The picture is diffuse neurologically. Onset is acute; if the patient survives the first 30 minutes, the prognosis is excellent.
Transfusion emboli are most likely when blood is administered from glass bottles which require ventilation, especially if pressure is applied for rapid transfusion. They can be avoided by using a closed system and collapsible blood packs.
An air embolism may occur in patients undergoing liver transplantation because of the high incidence of right - to - left venous-arterial shunts in chronic liver disease. It is avoided by allowing air bubbles to escape from the graft vessels before restoring the blood supply.