Management of spontaneous pneumomediastinum based on clinical experience of 25 cases

Respir Med. 2008 Sep;102(9):1329-34. doi: 10.1016/j.rmed.2008.03.023. Epub 2008 Jun 26.


Study objectives: Spontaneous pneumomediastinum (SPM) is a rare disorder that usually occurs in young individuals and has a self-limiting course and no recurrence in most cases. But actually in many cases, patients are undergo some examinations or some limitations. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the clinical characteristics and recommend appropriate management of SPM.

Design: Retrospective research of clinical records of a single institution.

Results: Over 11 years, we diagnosed 25 patients (18 males) with SPM. Their average age was 20.1 years (range 13-28 years). Chest pain or neck symptoms were most frequent, and 17 patients (68%) had subcutaneous emphysema. In all cases, blood counts and C-reactive protein (CRP) were measured, and their mean values were 10,100+/-4600/mm(3) and 1.0+/-1.5 mg/dL, respectively. In 20 patients (80%), either leucocytosis or elevated CRP was observed. Twenty-four patients (96%) were admitted (average 7.8+/-4.1 days) and 20 of them were prescribed antibiotics or limited oral intake. The symptoms were self-limiting in all cases and disappeared on average 1.8+/-0.9 days after diagnosis. No recurrence was noted in the approximately 2 years follow-up period.

Conclusion: SPM is a self-limiting disease with mild inflammatory signs. For patients suspicious of SPM, shortened hospitalization for about 2 days with observation alone may be feasible, if their symptoms improve gradually. Otherwise, less invasive procedures, such as esophagram, should be performed immediately. Long-term follow-up is usually unnecessary. We propose a new algorithm for management of SPM based on clinical experience.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Algorithms
  • Clinical Protocols
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mediastinal Emphysema / diagnosis*
  • Mediastinal Emphysema / therapy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Young Adult