A nursing student administers an IV medication but forgets to prime the syringe. The patient then becomes confused and pale. Suspecting an air embolus, what is the appropriate response?


•Placing the patient on their left side or in Trendelenburg's position will allow the air embolus to collect in the right atrium. The two positions can be applied together with the patient lying on their left side with feet raised. For a large air embolus, direct removal of air by aspiration from a central venous catheter in the right atrium may be attempted.

•Did you know: For venous air embolisms, death may occur if a very large bubble of gas becomes lodged in the heart, stopping blood from flowing from the right ventricle to the lungs. However, this would require more than 100 mL of air injected air into the venous system at rates greater than 100 mL/s to be fatal.

•A gas embolism into an artery is more serious because it could stop blood flow to an area of the body fed by the artery. The symptoms would depend on the area occluded, but can include stroke or heart attack. Only 0.5 mL of air into a coronary artery can cause cardiac arrest.

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