Forensic Science, Medicine and Pathology

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 603–606 | Cite as

Massive subcutaneous emphysema mimicking anaphylaxis - pathological and radiological correlations

  • Alexander EarleyEmail author
  • Trevor Watkins
  • Nadine Forde
Case Report


This report details the pathological and radiological findings in a rare case of massive subcutaneous emphysema. A 74-year-old male presented with sudden onset dyspnea and facial swelling following a fall. His symptoms were refractory to treatments for anaphylaxis, which was suspected clinically, and he quickly succumbed. Autopsy, including post mortem CT scan revealed the underlying etiology to be multiple rib fractures with rupture of the parietal pleura, bilateral pneumothoraxes and massive subcutaneous emphysema involving the face, torso and upper limbs. Multiple frothy air bubbles were observed throughout the mediastinal adipose tissues on internal examination. Our findings echo those of rare previous reports and show how subcutaneous emphysema may, in rare circumstances, mimic anaphylaxis.


Subcutaneous emphysema Surgical emphysema Anaphylaxis Pneumothorax Radiology Pathology Autopsy 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Health Support Queensland Forensic and Scientific ServicesQueensland HealthCooper PlainsAustralia
  2. 2.Princess Alexandra HospitalWoolloongabbaAustralia
  3. 3.The University of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia

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