Tube Thoracostomy: The Struggle to the “Standard of Care”

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Tube thoracostomy for thoracic injuries has been standard for only the last 40 years. Its theoretic roots trace back to World War II, where the goal of treatment was restoration of intrathoracic organ function. Thoracentesis was used to evacuate the hemopneumothorax resulting from chest trauma and that compromised pulmonary function. Experience gained in military and civilian hospitals contributed to the development of tube thoracostomy as an alternative treatment for patients with chest trauma. Progress stalled due to technologic problems and unacceptable complications associated with tube thoracostomy use during the Korean War. Technology improved, however, as did the success of thoracostomy, and it eventually become the standard of care, first in the civilian community and, ultimately, in the Vietnam War.

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