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J Emerg Med. 2013 Sep;45(3):380-3. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2013.03.017. Epub 2013 Jun 12.

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation can provide cardiopulmonary support during bronchoscopic clearance of airways after sand aspiration.

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  • 1Legacy Emanuel Shock Trauma Center, Portland, Oregon, USA.



Sand aspiration occurs in situations of cave-in burial and near-drowning. Sand in the tracheobronchial airways adheres to the mucosa and can cause tracheal and bronchial obstruction, which can be life-threatening even with intensive management. In previous case reports of airway obstruction caused by sand aspiration, fiber optic or rigid bronchoscopy has been effective in removing loose sand, but removal of sand particles lodged in smaller airways has proven challenging and time-consuming.


In this case report of sand aspiration with acute pulmonary failure, the use of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation for respiratory support allowed more effective removal of sand particles by rigid bronchoscopy and lavage with less patient compromise.


Our case of sand aspiration is unique in that the patient presents with complex medical problems (mixed respiratory and metabolic acidosis), hypothermia, hypoxemia, and neoplastic conditions. The fact that she survived the sand aspiration and a long inter-hospital transport time (90 min) with inadequate ventilation and oxygenation without apparent ill effects suggests that the measures we took to resuscitate her and extract the sand from her airways were reasonable and appropriate.

Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


ECMO; bronchoscopy/bronchus; hypoxia; intubation; trachea; ventilation

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