Tube thoracostomy: Increased angle of insertion is associated with complications

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Abstract

INTRODUCTION

Tube thoracostomy (TT), considered a routine procedure, has significant complications. Current recommendations for placement rely on surface anatomy. There is no information to guide operators regarding angle of insertion relative to chest wall. We aim to determine if angle of insertion is associated with complications of TT.

METHODS

We performed a retrospective review of adult trauma patients who necessitated TT at a Level I trauma center over a 2-year period (January 2012 to December 2013). Tube thoracostomies performed intraoperatively or using radiological guidance were excluded. Thoracic anteroposterior or posteroanterior radiographs were reviewed to determine the angle of insertion of TT relative to the thoracic wall. A previously validated classification method was used to categorize complications. Descriptive and univariate statistics were used to compare angle of insertion and complicated versus uncomplicated TT.

RESULTS

Review identified 154 patients who underwent a total of 246 TT placed for emergent trauma. All patients had a postprocedural chest x-ray. We identified 90 complications (37%) over the study period. One hundred forty-four of the TTs reviewed had an angle of insertion less than 45 degrees of which there were 27 complications (19%). One hundred two of the TTs had an angle greater than 45 degrees and 63 complications (62%); p < 0.0001.

CONCLUSIONS

Tube thoracostomy insertion is inherently dangerous. Placement of TT using a higher angle of insertion greater than 45 degrees is associated with increased complications. Further prospective studies quantifying TT angle of insertion on outcomes are needed.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE

Therapeutic study, level IV.

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