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Spontaneous Subcutaneous Emphysema and Pneumomediastinum in COVID-19 Patients: An Indicator of Poor Prognosis?

Mohammed Al-Azzawi, Steven Douedi, Abbas Alshami, Ghadier Al-Saoudi, John Mikhail

(Department of Medicine, Jersey Shore University Medical Center, Neptune, NJ, USA)

Am J Case Rep 2020; 21:e925557

DOI: 10.12659/AJCR.925557


BACKGROUND: Novel Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) has been in the spotlight since the first cases were reported in December 2019. COVID-19 has been found to cause severe acute respiratory distress syndrome and, more uncommonly, subcutaneous emphysema and pneumomediastinum. We present a case series of 3 patients with COVID-19 infection managed in the Intensive Care Unit and found to have subcutaneous emphysema and pneumomediastinum on chest imaging.
CASE REPORT: We present a case series of 3 men, ages 36, 47, and 78 years, diagnosed with COVID-19 via RT-PCR, found to have severe acute respiratory distress syndrome, and managed in the Intensive Care Unit. Two patients described in this case series were mechanically ventilated on low positive end-expiratory pressures and developed subcutaneous emphysema and pneumomediastinum on chest imaging, and 1 patient developed subcutaneous emphysema prior to intubation. Each of these patients had a more eventful hospital course and worse outcomes than most COVID-19 infected patients.
CONCLUSIONS: Subcutaneous emphysema and pneumomediastinum in COVID-19 patients have been rarely reported and is poorly understood. In our institution, we have found the diagnosis of subcutaneous emphysema and pneumomediastinum in COVID-19 patients is associated with unfavorable outcomes and worse prognosis.

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