Laborious attempts at introducing a central venous catheter for parenteral nutrition in two women, aged 36 and 62 years, were followed by shortness of breath after 32 and 10 hours, respectively. This symptom was due to a (tension) pneumothorax not visible on earlier roentgenograms. Thoracic drainage led to recovery. In all patients with a central venous catheter an undetected delayed pneumothorax can be present. Urgent chest X-ray examination should be performed in all patients with acute respiratory symptoms. Patients undergoing elective intubation with positive pressure breathing should be examined carefully, since they are at risk of developing a late (tension) pneumothorax.