Needle Decompression of Tension Pneumothorax with Colorimetric Capnography

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Abstract

BACKGROUND:

The success of needle decompression for tension pneumothorax is variable, and there are no objective measures assessing effective decompression. Colorimetric capnography, which detects carbon dioxide present within the pleural space, may serve as a simple test to assess effective needle decompression.

METHODS:

Three swine underwent traumatically induced tension pneumothorax (standard of care, n = 15; standard of care with needle capnography, n = 15). Needle thoracostomy was performed with an 8-cm angiocatheter. Similarly, decompression was performed with the addition of colorimetric capnography. Subjective operator assessment of decompression was recorded and compared with true decompression, using thoracoscopic visualization for both techniques. Areas under receiver operating curves were calculated and pairwise comparison was performed to assess statistical significance (P < .05).

RESULTS:

The detection of decompression by needle colorimetric capnography was found to be 100% accurate (15 of 15 attempts), when compared with thoracoscopic assessment (true decompression). Furthermore, it accurately detected the lack of tension pneumothorax, that is, the absence of any pathologic/space-occupying lesion, in 100% of cases (10 of 10 attempts). Standard of care needle decompression was detected by operators in 9 of 15 attempts (60%) and was detected in 3 of 10 attempts when tension pneumothorax was not present (30%). True decompression, under direct visualization with thoracoscopy, occurred 15 of 15 times (100%) with capnography, and 12 of 15 times (80%) without capnography. Areas under receiver operating curves were 0.65 for standard of care and 1.0 for needle capnography (P = .002).

CONCLUSIONS:

Needle decompression with colorimetric capnography provides a rapid, effective, and highly accurate method for eliminating operator bias for tension pneumothorax decompression. This may be useful for the treatment of this life-threatening condition.

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