Complications associated with pre-hospital open thoracostomies: a rapid review



Mohrsen S, McMahon N, Corfield A & McKee S (2021) Complications associated with pre-hospital open thoracostomies: a rapid review. Scandinavian Journal of Trauma, Resuscitation and Emergency Medicine, 29 (1), Art. No.: 166.

Background: Open thoracostomies have become the standard of care in pre-hospital critical care in patients with chest injuries receiving positive pressure ventilation. The procedure has embedded itself as a rapid method to decompress air or fluid in the chest cavity since its original description in 1995, with a complication rate equal to or better than the out-of-hospital insertion of indwelling pleural catheters. A literature review was performed to explore potential negative implications of open thoracostomies and discuss its role in mechanically ventilated patients without clinical features of pneumothorax. Main findings: A rapid review of key healthcare databases showed a significant rate of complications associated with pre-hospital open thoracostomies. Of 352 thoracostomies included in the final analysis, 10.6% (n = 38) led to complications of which most were related to operator error or infection (n = 26). Pneumothoraces were missed in 2.2% (n = 8) of all cases. Conclusion: There is an appreciable complication rate associated with pre-hospital open thoracostomy. Based on a risk/benefit decision for individual patients, it may be appropriate to withhold intervention in the absence of clinical features, but consideration must be given to the environment where the patient will be monitored during care and transfer. Chest ultrasound can be an effective assessment adjunct to rule in pneumothorax, and may have a role in mitigating the rate of missed cases.

Emergency medical services; Critical care; Thoracic injuries; Pneumothorax; Thoracostomy; Intraoperative complications

Scandinavian Journal of Trauma, Resuscitation and Emergency Medicine: Volume 29, Issue 1

Publication date31/12/2021
Publication date online31/12/2021
Date accepted by journal04/11/2021
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media LLC