Congenital lobar emphysema (CLE), a rare condition that usually presents in the neonatal period, can be a diagnostic and therapeutic challenge for the treating clinician. If unrecognised, it is a significant risk at the time of anaesthetic induction. We describe a case of CLE in a 3-month-old boy who was initially treated for suspected aspiration pneumonia at the referring hospital. We highlight the importance of careful consideration of common childhood respiratory illness as well as pneumothorax in the differential diagnosis, and the significance of appropriate preoperative anaesthetic management. We also emphasise the importance of acknowledging a mother's concerns when taking a paediatric history.
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