Acute ventilatory failure from massive subcutaneous emphysema

Chest. 1993 Sep;104(3):978-80. doi: 10.1378/chest.104.3.978.


A 66-year-old woman developed massive subcutaneous emphysema following intubation. Acute thoracic restriction developed resulting in life-threatening respiratory acidosis. The patient could not be ventilated with conventional means. A tracheostomy was performed to decompress the chest and mediastinum with rapid resolution following. Although ventilatory failure from subcutaneous emphysema is very unusual, decompression with tracheostomy can be life saving.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Respiration, Artificial / adverse effects
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / etiology*
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / therapy
  • Subcutaneous Emphysema / complications*
  • Subcutaneous Emphysema / etiology
  • Tracheostomy