Fatal air embolism in an airplane passenger with a giant intrapulmonary bronchogenic cyst

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 1998 May;157(5 Pt 1):1686-9. doi: 10.1164/ajrccm.157.5.9706040.


Considering the large number of airplane passengers with a variety of medical conditions, the incidence of in-flight emergencies on commercial airline flights is low. Only few cases of pulmonary barotrauma in airplane passengers with prior lung pathologies have been reported. We present the unusual case of a female airplane passenger with a previously diagnosed asymptomatic giant intrapulmonary bronchogenic cyst who experienced fatal air embolism on a commercial airline flight. We believe that preventive surgical resection is mandatory in asymptomatic patients with large intrapulmonary cysts prior to exposure to even small alterations in ambient pressure as, for instance, prior to airplane flight or use of mountain cable cars. However, screening for pre-existent lung pathologies in the growing mass of commercial airline travelers is not justified.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aerospace Medicine
  • Aircraft
  • Altitude
  • Barotrauma / complications
  • Bronchogenic Cyst / complications*
  • Bronchogenic Cyst / diagnostic imaging
  • Bronchogenic Cyst / pathology
  • Embolism, Air / diagnostic imaging
  • Embolism, Air / etiology*
  • Embolism, Air / pathology
  • Fatal Outcome
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Radiography