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Acute atraumatic peri-arrest tension gastrothorax presenting to the emergency department


A 71-year-old woman was brought in by ambulance to the emergency department with sudden-onset difficulty in breathing whilst shopping at a large UK retail shopping centre. She had no respiratory history and portable chest X-ray revealed a huge gastrothorax, secondary pneumothorax and mediastinal shift. Clinical deterioration with haemodynamic instability required urgent decompression. Successful needle decompression followed by tube thoracostomy improved patient condition with no further complications. Surgical repair was performed but was delayed by COVID-19. This case provides a rare presentation of an acute life-threatening tension gastrothorax with difficult management considerations. A review of the management options is undertaken.

  • resuscitation
  • pneumothorax
  • gastrointestinal surgery
  • cardiothoracic surgery
  • radiology

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