The London Hyperbaric unit at Whipps Cross Hospital and the East of England Hyperbaric unit at James Paget Hospital have 24/7 Consultant Anaesthetist cover to treat such cases. Speak directly to one of our consultants now on our 24/7 hotlines:

BartsHealth Hyperbaric Unit,

 07999 292 999

James Paget University Hospital,
Great Yarmouth

 01493 603 151

If your interest is in connection with a previous patient, please register the case on the anonymous Gas Embolism website:


Gas Embolism

What is Cerebral Gas Embolism (CGE)?

Symptoms and signs of Gas Embolism, or the presence of bubbles of air or any other gas in the circulation, varies widely and its consequences range from mild discomfort (seen as microbubbles in decompression illness) to causing rapid death, particularly when caused by various invasive medical/surgical procedures, but occasionally also seen as diving accidents. Upon entering the vascular system, gas bubbles follow the blood stream until they obstruct small vessels. Depending on the access route, gas embolism may be classified as venous or arterial gas embolism. Diagnosis is based on the sudden occurrence of neurological and/or cardio- respiratory manifestations.

Examples of the origins of air or gas bubbles in the circulation are:

  • Pulmonary Barotrauma

    • From sudden decompression, as a result of a diving accident
    • From barotrauma during mechanical ventilation
    • Blast injury, when close to an explosion
  • Intravascular Equipment

    • Intravenous access lines, fluids and giving sets, and any disconnection of these. (this includes insertion of peripheral as well a central lines and includes removal)
    • Arterial cannula flushed with air in the line
    • Angiographic accidents
    • Haemodialysis line disconnections and pump malfunctions
  • Peri-operative

    • Neurosurgical
    • Vascular
    • Cardiac (i.e. open heart) or cardiopulmonary bypass systems
    • Thoracic
    • Orthopaedic (instruments using compressed air)

Cerebral Venous Gas Embolism (CVGE) is an equally dangerous variant of gas embolism with gas bubbles preferentially entering the cerebral venous circulation under certain circumstances, rather than following the flow of blood to the right side of the heart.

The main symptom is the sudden occurrence of ANY neurological and/or cardiovascular signs which can be instantaneous, delayed by just a few minutes or several hours after the causing event.