The purpose of this study was to evaluate the frequency of inadequate needle chest thoracostomy in the prehospital setting in trauma patients suspected of having a pneumothorax (PTX) on the basis of physical examination.
This study took place at a level I trauma center. All trauma patients arriving via emergency medical services with a suspected PTX and a needle thoracostomy were evaluated for a PTX with bedside ultrasound. Patients too unstable for ultrasound evaluation before tube thoracostomy were excluded, and convenience sampling was used. All patients were scanned while supine. Examinations began at the midclavicular line and included the second through fifth ribs. If no sliding lung sign (SLS) was noted, a PTX was suspected, and the lung point was sought for definitive confirmation. When an SLS was noted throughout and a PTX was ruled out on ultrasound imaging, the thoracostomy catheter was removed. Descriptive statistics were calculated.
A total of 57 patients were evaluated over a 3-year period. All had at least 1 needle thoracostomy attempted; 1 patient underwent 3 attempts. Fifteen patients (26%) had a normal SLS on ultrasound examination and no PTX after the thoracostomy catheter was removed. None of the 15 patients were later discovered to have a PTX on subsequent computed tomography.
In this study, 26% of patients who received needle thoracostomy in the prehospital setting for a suspected PTX appeared not to have had a PTX originally, nor had 1 induced by the needle thoracostomy. It may be prudent to evaluate such patients with bedside ultrasound instead of automatically converting all needle thoracostomies to tube thoracostomies.
Inadequate needle thoracostomy rate in the prehospital setting for presumed pneumothorax: an ultrasound study
J Ultrasound Med. 2010 Sep;29(9):1285-9