Subcutaneous emphysema (SE) can be caused by antecedent trauma, surgery, rupture of visceral organs or serious infection from gas-forming microorganisms. Factitious SE is very rare; only about a dozen cases have been reported. Most patients had an underlying psychiatric condition or relevant history. The diagnosis and management of factitious SE are challenging. We report a new case of factitious SE with a very complex clinical course. A 29-year-old woman was seen at consultation for recurrent attacks of painful soft tissue swelling, affecting her chest wall, abdomen and neck over several months. Factitious disease was suspected because of the negative medical history of identifiable visceral perforations or gas-forming infections and the presence of multiple bizarre linear scars on the arm. This was supported by finding multiple recent puncture marks on the neck, chest and upper extremities on close inspection. The patient's history was remarkable for multiple stressful events in her life, frequent job changes, substance abuse and suicide attempts. Psychiatric evaluation revealed adjustment disorder with depression and anxiety, cluster B personality with bipolar II disorder and substance abuse. During the 1-year period, she had 20 visits to our ER for attacks of SE affecting various parts of her body. This case illustrates that self-infliction should be suspected in a patient presenting with medically unexplained recurrent SE and a hollow history, and one should search for puncture marks to support the diagnosis.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes