What is subcutaneous emphysema causes, symptoms and treatment

What is subcutaneous emphysema ?

Subcutaneous emphysema is a condition when air or gas trapped under the skin. This occurs generally in neck or chest area due to surgery, rib fracture, rapture bronchial tube or any other factor.

Emphysema refers to destruction of lung tissue and damage to air sacs which results difficulty in breathing.

Symptoms of subcutaneous emphysema

Subcutaneous emphysema has a crackling feeling. hen we touch over the skin it feels like air bubbles inside skin. sometimes touching the bubbles make them move.

symptoms of subcutaneous emphysema
symptoms of subcutaneous emphysema

subcutaneous emphysema complications are –

  • Pain in neck
  • Chest pain
  • swollen neck
  • voice change
  • fullness feeling
  • breathing difficulty
  • difficulty in swallowing
  • A high-pitched whistling sound made while breathing.

There is so much changes of emphysema to move in different parts of body like abdomen and limbs. most common is abdomen after neck and chest.

When subcutaneous emphysema is in neck there is swelling of neck which results in felling of fullness, change in voice, difficulty in swallowing, pain in neck.

Subcutaneous emphysema causes

Subcutaneous emphysema causes due to leakage of gastrointestinal tract or respiratory tract. which results in trapping of air in subcutaneous tissue inside skin.

There are also many other causes of subcutaneous emphysema like accident, gun wound, infection or any other medical conditions.

Car accidents – Accident causes excessive force on body, mainly in chest result in puncture of pleural membrane and due to puncture air enters inside muscles and skin.

Fractured or broken rib – Broken or fractured rib tears the parietal layer of lung results in leakage of air into subcutaneous tissue or inside skin. Fractured facial bone also causes emphysema under skin.

Traumas – Traumas such as gunshot wounds, penetration traumas, blunt trauma or stabbing traumas

Medical treatment – This type of emphysema may also occurs due to some medical treatments like surgery of chest, surgery near esophagus, oral surgery, cricothyrotomy, laparoscopy.

Due to damage of trachea or injured trachea due to tracheostomy result in leakage of air into subcutaneous area.

In some types of surgery there are various use of high speed tools that drives air, results in swelling of skin.

Chest tubes – It may also cause due to improper placement or wrong placement of chest tube inside patients body. improper placement of chest tube results in leakage of air inside body.

You are in risk if you –

  • Smoke
  • snorted cocaine
  • Cough for long time
  • lung disease

Subcutaneous emphysema treatment

Now the question is how is subcutaneous emphysema treated ?

For diagnosis medical imaging is used such as radiograph, ultrasound, chest x-ray or CT scan. Generally small emphysema under skin is harmless and painless, it do not need any type of treatment sometime it may recover automatically.

But if you have a large emphysema, the ammount of air inside skin is more then it creates problem in breathing, swallowing and other activities.

Treatment of large emphysema

Treatment of large emphysema required surgical procedure for drainage of air from subcutaneous space. In some cases catheters are used to release air and in some cases a small cut is made on skin to release air.

Pneumothorax that is condition occurs when air leaks into the space between the lungs and chest wall also causes subcutaneous emphysema in this case chest tube is used to remove air from subcutaneous space.

When to visit a doctor

If you have a small emphysema under skin which do not cause any problem and it is small enough that it do not interfere with your personal activities then it is normal, if possible it will recover itself after a time.

But if you have big emphysema in any part of body, causes pain or not you should visit a doctor. If emphysema is in your neck or chest regin and causing problem in swelling or breathing then you should immediately visit a doctor. They provide you oxygen tank to breath properly and treat you further.

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