Emphysema (Surgical)

The Healing Power of the Breath Recognizing and Treating Breathing Disorders
The Healing Power of the Breath Recognizing and Treating Breathing Disorders


Surgical emphysema is a condition in which air (i.e. gases) get trapped in subcutaneous areas of the skin. This can be uncomfortable but is not generally considered dangerous. Although the name refers to the possibility of occurence in cases of surgical procedures, any trauma e.g. an injury in which the skin is broken, can lead to surgical emphysema.

Surgical emphysema is one of the two - very different - forms of emphysema in this section. The other form of emphysema included here is pulmonary emphysema.


Air may escape into the tissues of the chest and neck from leaks in the lungs and oesophagus. This may happen when, occasionally, air escapes into other tissues during surgery and bacteria may form gas in soft tissues.

Effect (Symptoms)

The presence of gas or air gives affected tissues a characteristic crackling feeling to the touch. It may also be visible on X-rays.


Gas or air trapped in tissues is easily absorbed when the leak or production is stopped.


See also a list of diseases and disorders of the respiratory system (info all on one page).

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