Accidental iatrogenic pneumothorax in hospitalized patients

Med Care. 2006 Feb;44(2):182-6. doi: 10.1097/01.mlr.0000196938.91369.2a.


Objective: Iatrogenic pneumothorax (IP) is an inherent risk to patients who undergo procedures that involve the intentional puncturing of the lung. IP also could occur accidentally to patients who do not undergo such procedures; such accidental IP (AIP) is suggestive of lapses in safe care. This study assessed the risk for AIP in patients hospitalized with specific diagnoses who underwent specific procedures.

Research design: We analyzed 7.5 million discharge abstracts from 994 short-term acute care hospitals across 28 states in 2000 in the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project Nationwide Inpatient Sample. AHRQ Patient Safety Indicators (PSIs) were used to identify AIP. AIP incidences and associated diagnoses and procedures were explored.

Results: Patients who were admitted for pleurisy, cancer of the kidney and renal pelvis, or conduction disorders and complications of cardiac devices had the highest rates of developing AIP during hospitalization, with AIP rates at 2.24%, 1.14%, and 0.83% respectively. The procedure-specific rates for AIP varied from 2.68% for patients who underwent thoracentesis to 1.30% for those who underwent nephrectomy, to 0.06% for those who underwent gastrostomy. Thoracentesis appeared to be a high-risk procedure for patients who were admitted for secondary malignancies, pleurisy, or pneumonia, with AIP rates at 3.76%, 3.13%, and 2.28%, respectively.

Conclusions: Although AIP is most common after thoracentesis, it is a substantial threat to patients undergoing a wide range of procedures.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Hospitals / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Iatrogenic Disease / epidemiology*
  • Incidence
  • Medical Errors / statistics & numerical data
  • Patients / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pneumothorax / epidemiology*
  • Pneumothorax / etiology
  • Risk Assessment
  • Safety Management