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Diseases reference index «Subcutaneous emphysema»

Subcutaneous emphysema occurs when air gets into tissues under the skin covering the chest wall or neck.

Considerations

Subcutaneous emphysema can often be seen as a smooth bulging of the skin. When a health care provider feels (palpates) the skin, it produces an unusual crackling sensation as the gas is pushed through the tissue.

Causes

This is a rare condition. When it does occur, possible causes include:

  • Collapsed lung (pneumothorax), often occurring with a rib fracture
  • Facial bone fracture
  • Ruptured bronchial tube
  • Ruptured esophagus

This condition can happen due to:

  • Blunt trauma
  • Gun shot wounds
  • Stabbing

Air can also be found in between skin layers on the arms and legs or torso during certain infections, including gas gangrene.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Most of the conditions that cause subcutaneous emphysema are very severe. Sometimes a hospital stay is needed. Medical staff should already be involved in most cases.

Alternative Names

Crepitus; Subcutaneous air; Tissue emphysema

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