Li, Suzzane S. OD, FAAO; Engelke, Carla B. OD, FAAO

Case Report: Atraumatic Orbital Emphysema after Bronchoscopy with Endobronchial Biopsy

publication date
December 20, 2020
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Orbital emphysema is a well-documented condition where air enters the orbital soft tissue typically because of direct or indirect trauma; however, atraumatic cases can be encountered. The following is a novel case report of acute unilateral atraumatic orbital emphysema 24 hours after bronchoscopy with endobronchial biopsy.


To the best of the authors' knowledge, this is the first known case report of atraumatic orbital emphysema as a postprocedure complication of bronchoscopy with endobronchial biopsy in the literature.


A 74-year-old man presented with painless swelling of the left upper and lower eyelids upon awakening. The patient had a history of bronchoscopy and endobronchial biopsy with conscious sedation for a right upper lobe lung mass 24 hours before the visit. Slit-lamp examination revealed air entrapment in the left upper and lower lids with enlarged subconjunctival air pockets of the left eye. Head and maxillofacial computed tomography without contrast revealed extensive emphysema tracking and dissecting along the subcutaneous and deep soft tissue spaces of the neck and face that was more pronounced along the left side. The patient was admitted for overnight observation and prescribed a prophylactic oral course of 250 mg of azithromycin daily for 2 days by the attending hospitalist. The subsequent follow-up visit 3 days later revealed complete resolution of signs and symptoms.



This case report demonstrates the importance of considering orbital emphysema in patients with a history of recent bronchoscopy with endobronchial biopsy. Clinicians should be aware of this potential complication and refer for appropriate testing and comanagement.

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