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Devastating Cerebral Air Embolism After Central Line Removal

Clark, Diane K.; Plaizier, Evelyn

Journal of Neuroscience Nursing: August 2011 - Volume 43 - Issue 4 - p 193-196
doi: 10.1097/JNN.0b013e3182212a3a

Background: Air embolism is a well-published complication arising from central venous catheter use. Literature and case studies provide information regarding clinical sequelae. Preventable mistakes still occur despite following what is considered appropriate protocol. This case report describes the neurological complications likely caused by a cerebral air embolism related to central venous catheter removal.

Case: An 84-year-old man was admitted to the neuroscience critical care unit with acute stroke symptoms and seizures after removal of a central venous catheter.

Conclusion: There is an abundance of literature describing best practice, complications, and treatment of venous air embolism associated with central line catheter use. Utilization of central venous catheters is increasing. With increased utilization comes the responsibility to improve commonplace knowledge and ensure that practice guidelines and protocols are dependable and consistent.

Questions or comments about this article may be directed to Diane K. Clark, MS APRN ACNP-BC CCNS CCRN, at She was a clinical nurse specialist at Intermountain Healthcare, Murray, UT, and is now an acute care nurse practitioner at Providence Health & Services, Portland, OR.

Evelyn Plaizier, MS APRN FNP CCRN, is at Intermountain Healthcare, Murray, UT.

© 2011 American Association of Neuroscience Nurses