Effect of ventilation with soluble and diffusible gases on the size of air emboli

R. G. Presson, K. R. Kirk, K. A. Haselby, W. W. Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Scopus citations


Pulmonary hypertension resulting from venous air embolism is known to increase after ventilation with highly soluble and diffusible gases. Exacerbation of the hypertension could be due to further blockage of the circulation if the bubbles enlarge as a result of ingress of gas by diffusion. This mechanism has been frequently cited but lacks direct proof. To determine directly whether intravascular air bubbles actually enlarge when highly soluble and diffusible gases are inspired, we used microscopy to measure the size of gas emboli in vivo. When air bubbles were injected into the right atrium, the bubbles that appeared in pulmonary arterioles were larger during ventilation with helium or nitrous oxide than with air. Air bubbles injected into the pulmonary artery enlarged when the inspired gas was changed to helium or nitrous oxide. The direction, magnitude, and timing of changes in bubble size were consistent with a net diffusion of gas into the bubbles. These data support the idea that venous air emboli enlarge during ventilation with soluble and diffusible gases and thereby cause further vascular obstruction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1068-1074
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1991


  • dogs
  • helium
  • in vivo microscopy
  • molecular diffusion
  • nitrous oxide
  • precapillary gas exchange
  • pulmonary air embolism
  • surface tension
  • venous air embolism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Physiology
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation

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