Air swallowing can occur as a psychogenic phenomenon, because of abnormal anatomy, or during non-invasive positive pressure ventilation. Gross distension of the stomach with air can have severe consequences for the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems. We report the case of a 62-year-old man with severe dynamic hyperinflation due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, who developed respiratory failure requiring intubation a few hours after radical prostatectomy. Following a percutaneous tracheostomy and weaning of sedation on day six, his abdomen began to enlarge progressively. X-rays revealed massive gastric distension due to air swallowing, which continued despite all efforts to optimise therapy. The use of an underwater seal drainage system on a nasogastric tube improved ventilation and ultimately aided weaning from mechanical support.
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