Systemic arterial air embolism (SAAE) is a rare but serious complication of CT-guided hook wire localization of pulmonary nodule usually with catastrophic and poor outcome. Hook wire needle localization is done pre-operatively by placing wire around or into the pulmonary nodule to provide the thoracic surgeon accurate location guidance of the target nodule for Video-Assisted Thoracoscopic Surgery (VATS) wedge resection with safety margins. Physicians should be aware of this possible complication during the procedure in order to rescue the patient promptly as it requires rapid diagnosis and management. We describe a 55-year-old male who underwent a CT-guided hook wire needle localization of left upper lobe lung cancer and left lower lobe pulmonary nodule prior to planned VATS wedge resection who developed altered mental status and bilateral lower extremities paralysis after wire placement was completed. His CT head demonstrated small air embolism in the left occipital area, confirming the diagnosis of cerebral air embolism and follow up CT and MRI of the head revealed multiple areas of brain infarction. In addition, he was diagnosed with anterior spinal cord syndrome (ACS), most likely due to anterior spinal artery ischemia from micro air embolism on the basis of clinical findings but with negative ischemic changes on MRI of the spinal cord. His mental status recovered but he remained paraplegic and transferred to inpatient rehabilitation service.
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