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Cerebral air embolism caused by a bronchogenic cyst

Abstract

An unusual case is presented of a tourist who developed fatal cerebral air embolism, pneumomediastinum and pneumopericardium while ascending from low altitude to Europe's highest railway station. Presumably the air embolism originated from rupture of the unsuspected bronchogenic cyst as a result of pressure changes during the ascent. Cerebral air embolism has been observed during surgery, in scuba diving accidents, submarine escapes and less frequently during exposure to very high altitude. People with known bronchogenic cysts should be informed about the risk of cerebral air embolism and surgical removal should be considered. Cerebral air embolism is a rare cause of coma and stroke in all activities with rapid air pressure changes, including alpine tourism, as our unfortunate tourist illustrates.

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