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J Emerg Trauma Shock. 2019 Jul-Sep;12(3):218-221. doi: 10.4103/JETS.JETS_59_19.

Missile Embolism from Pulmonary Vein to Systemic Circulation: Case Report with Systematic Literature Review.

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Department of General Surgery, Goa Medical College, Bambolim, Goa, India.


Missile embolism (ME) is a rare condition and was seen in 0.3% of gunshot wounds during the Vietnam War. It was first reported by Thomas Davis in 1834. ME occurs when a small caliber, slow velocity projectile penetrates a wall in the vasculature; loses its kinetic energy; and gets carried away along the bloodstream to occlude another vessel at a distant site. Civilian victims of low-velocity bullets account for 60% of such cases. ME can be arterial, venous, or paradoxical. Systemic arterial embolization accounts for 80% of published reports and occurs after the projectile penetrates the left chambers of heart, aorta, or very rarely pulmonary veins (PVs). There are only nine published reports of ME through PV till date. We report here, embolism of an air-gun pellet entering through the right thorax, into right PV, embolizing into right femoral artery, causing acute limb ischemia, in a young male. Emergency arteriotomy and removal of the embolic pellet saved the limb with good recovery. He did not require a thoracotomy. The clinical picture, radiological findings, operative details, and the management are presented and discussed with relevant literature. The purpose of this report is to highlight the unique presentation of ME through PV, as its management is different from other cases of arterial ME. Early diagnosis of the condition is imperative to prevent permanent ischemic damage of end organ and its sequelae. We present an analysis of all published reports of systemic ME through PV and also give our recommendations for its management.


Air gun pellet; bullet embolism; femoral artery embolism; pulmonary vein embolism; thoracic gunshot injury

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