Fire-eating: Hazards of hydrocarbon aspiration


  • M Guandalini MB BS (Hons), BPhty; K Steinke MD, MS, PD (Switzerland).

  • Conflict of interest: None.

Dr Michael Guandalini, Department of Medical Imaging, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, Herston, Qld 4006, Australia.


A 30-year-old male fire eater presented following aspiration of hydrocarbon fuel during a performance. A plain chest radiograph carried out 2 h after aspiration showed left lower lobe consolidation. The patient subsequently developed worsening shortness of breath, haemoptysis, fever and myalgia and a repeat plain chest radiograph showed extensive bilateral pulmonary consolidation with mediastinal and bilateral hilar lymphadenopathy. Computed tomography showed features consistent with necrotizing pneumonia. The clinical course was complicated by the development of large pleural effusions, pneumatocoeles and a spontaneous pneumothorax. Early abnormalities on a plain chest radiograph following suspected hydrocarbon aspiration require close monitoring for the development of further life-threatening complications.