Understanding Pneumomediastinum as a Complication in Patients With COVID-19: A Case Series

J Investig Med High Impact Case Rep. 2022 Jan-Dec;10:23247096221127117. doi: 10.1177/23247096221127117.


Pneumomediastinum is a rare complication among non-coronavirus patients but has been published with increased incidence in patients positive for SARS-CoV-2 infection. Most of these studies report patients on mechanical ventilation and an understanding of mechanisms causing this remains limited. We aim to use an increasing occurrence in patients not on mechanical ventilation to further explore mechanisms that predispose patients to pneumomediastinum and to assess characteristics potentially related to poor outcomes. We report a case series of 37 patients diagnosed with COVID-19 and pneumomediastinum at a 2-hospital institution between January 1, 2020 and April 30, 2021. At 28 days after diagnosis of pneumomediastinum, 19 (51.4%) were dead and mortality was significantly higher among those who were older (t = 2.147, P = .039), female (χ2 = 10.431, P = .015), body mass index ≥30 (χ2 = 6.0598, P = .01), intubated (χ2 = 4.937, P = .026), and had pre-existing lung disease (χ2 = 4.081, P = .043). Twenty-three patients (62.2%) were identified to have pneumomediastinum without receiving invasive mechanical ventilation, of which 11 (47.8%) were diagnosed without receiving noninvasive ventilation. The increased diagnosis of pneumomediastinum in patients with COVID-19 while not on mechanical ventilation, in this case series and in comparable studies, may attribute to mechanisms aside from positive pressure ventilation such as patient self-induced lung injury and pulmonary frailty.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; barotrauma; patient self-induced lung injury; pneumomediastinum; pulmonary compliance.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / complications
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mediastinal Emphysema* / etiology
  • Positive-Pressure Respiration
  • Respiration, Artificial / adverse effects
  • SARS-CoV-2