Article Abstract

The influence of chest tube size and position in primary spontaneous pneumothorax

Authors: Sara S. Riber, Lars P. S. Riber, Winnie H. Olesen, Peter B. Licht


Background: Optimal chest tube position in the pleural cavity is largely unexplored for the treatment of primary spontaneous pneumothorax (PSP). We investigated whether type, size and position of chest tubes influenced duration of treatment for PSP.
Methods: A retrospective follow-up study of all patients admitted with PSP over a 5-year period. Traumatic, iatrogenic and secondary pneumothoraxes were excluded. Gender, age, smoking habits, type and size of chest tube used (pigtail catheter or surgical chest tube) were recorded from the patients’ charts. All chest X-rays upon admittance and immediately following chest tube placement were retrieved and re-evaluated for size of pneumothorax (categorized into five groups) and location of the chest tube tip (categorized as upper, middle or lower third of the pleural cavity). All data were analysed in a Cox proportional hazards regression model.
Results: We identified 134 patients with PSP. Baseline characteristics were similar for patients treated with surgical chest tubes and pigtail catheters. Chest tube duration was not significantly influenced by position of the chest tube tip, but was significantly longer in females (P<0.01), patients <30 years (P=0.01), larger pneumothoraxes (P<0.01), use of surgical chest tubes (P=0.03) and a history of previous pneumothorax (P=0.04).
Conclusions: Contrary to common belief and guidelines recommendation the position of a chest tube in the pleural cavity did not significantly influence chest tube duration, but it was significantly longer in patients who were treated with a surgical chest tube.