Surgical emphysema (summary)

Dr Jeremy Jones et al.
This is a basic article for medical students and other non-radiologists

Surgical emphysema (or subcutaneous emphysema) occurs when air/gas is located in the subcutaneous tissues (the layer under the skin). This usually occurs in the chest, face or neck.

Reference article

This is a summary article; read more in our article on surgical emphysema.

  • pathophysiology
    • gas within the soft tissues
    • causes
      • tracheobronchial perforation with gas tracking
      • penetrating trauma
  • role of imaging
    • is there surgical emphysema?
    • where is it distributed?
    • is there other free gas? e.g. pneumomediastinum
    • what's the cause? e.g. hyperinflation in asthma
  • gas within the soft tissues
  • easy to see in the neck and upper chest
  • may have a strange appearance with overlying structures
  • much more readily demonstrated on a CT
  • pockets of air seen as dark areas located in the subcutaneous tissues
Medical student radiology curriculum
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Article information

rID: 31298
System: Chest
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:

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Cases and figures

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    Case 1: surgical emphysema
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    Case 2: post-traumatic surgical emphysema
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    Case 3: spontaneous air everywhere
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