History and admission findings: A 39-year-old obese woman underwent endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography with elective endoscopic biliary sphincterotomy (papillotomy) for symptomatic retained stones in the common bile duct which were extracted completely after added lithotripsy. Three hours later the patient developed profound subcutaneous emphysema of the face, neck and chest wall and shortness of breath, but had no abdominal pain. Physical examination revealed bilaterally diminished breath sounds and a distended and hyper-resonant abdomen, but no evidence of peritonitis. The patient was afebrile and hemodynamically stable.
Investigations: An emergency contrast-enhanced computed tomography (CT) of the chest and abdomen was performed. It demonstrated a bilateral pneumothorax, pneumomediastinum, pneumoperitoneum and pneumoretroperitoneum, in addition to extensive subcutaneous emphysema. There was no evidence of extraluminal leakage of contrast medium or intraperitoneal fluid on the CT.
Therapy and clinical course: Because of the increasing respiratory distress an intercostal drain was placed in the left pneumothorax and broad-spectrum antibiotics were administered. No drain was placed in the right lung. A follow-up CT after three days showed decreasing pneumomediastinum, pneumoperitoneum and pneumoretroperitoneum as well as resolution of the bilateral pneumothorax. The patient made an uneventful recovery and was discharged home seven days after the intervention.
Conclusion: Pneumothorax after endoscopic biliary sphincterotomy is a rare but serious complication that should be kept in mind after postinterventional development of shortness of breath.
Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart, New York.