Background: Because the condition is rare, the proper assessment of spontaneous pneumomediastinum (SPM) remains controversial. The purpose of this study was to determine whether additional oesophageal investigations beyond chest x ray and chest computed tomography (CT) scan are necessary for the diagnosis of SPM.
Methods: The medical records of 25 patients diagnosed and treated for SPM from March 1986 to December 2007 were retrospectively reviewed.
Results: There were 22 men and 3 women, with a median age of 19 years (range 15–57 years). All patients received chest x rays, which revealed air shadows within the mediastinum or subcutaneous emphysema in 24 patients. Twenty-two patients underwent chest CT scans, which showed pneumomediastinum in all cases. Oesophagography was performed in 14 patients and oesophagoscopy in three. All oesophagographies and oesophagoscopies were clear. Despite conservative treatment, no patients developed mediastinitis or complications associated with oesophageal injury.
Conclusions: Chest x ray and CT scan are sufficient to diagnose SPM. Additional diagnostic assessments such as oesophagography and oesophagoscopy are not necessary in patients without evidence of mediastinitis or a history of oesophageal injury.
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Competing interests None.
Provenance and Peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.