Prehospital chest tube thoracostomy: effective treatment or additional trauma?

J Trauma. 2005 Jul;59(1):96-101. doi: 10.1097/01.ta.0000171448.71301.13.


Background: The use of prehospital chest tube thoracostomy (TT) remains controversial because of presumed increased complication risks. This study analyzed infectious complication rates for physician-performed prehospital and emergency department (ED) TT.

Methods: Over a 40-month period, all consecutive trauma patients with TT performed by the flight physician at the accident scene were compared with all patients with TT performed in the emergency department. Bacterial cultures, blood samples, and thoracic radiographs were reviewed for TT-related infections.

Results: Twenty-two patients received prehospital TTs and 101 patients received ED TTs. Infected hemithoraces related to TTs were found in 9% of those performed in the prehospital setting and 12% of ED-performed TTs (not significant).

Conclusion: The prehospital chest tube thoracostomy is a safe and lifesaving intervention, providing added value to prehospital trauma care when performed by a qualified physician. The infection rate for prehospital TT does not differ from ED TT.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chest Tubes* / adverse effects
  • Emergency Medical Services*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infections / etiology
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Thoracic Injuries / therapy*
  • Thoracostomy / adverse effects
  • Thoracostomy / methods*