A study of the complications of small bore 'Seldinger' intercostal chest drains

Respirology. 2008 Jun;13(4):603-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1843.2008.01296.x. Epub 2008 Apr 14.


Background and objective: Use of small bore chest drains (<14F), inserted via the Seldinger technique, has increased globally over the last few years. They are now used as first line interventions in most acute medical situations when thoracostomy is required. Limited data are available on the associated complications. In this study, the frequency of complications associated with 12F chest drains, inserted using the Seldinger technique, was quantified.

Methods: A retrospective case note audit was performed of consecutive patients requiring pleural drainage over a 12-month period. One hundred consecutive small bore Seldinger (12F) chest drain insertions were evaluated.

Results: Few serious complications occurred. However, 21% of the chest drains were displaced ('fell out') and 9% of the drains became blocked. This contributed to high morbidity rates, with 13% of patients requiring repeat pleural procedures. The frequency of drain blockage in pleural effusion was reduced by administration of regular normal saline drain flushes (odds ratio for blockage in flushed drains compared with non-flushed drains 0.04, 95% CI: 0.01-0.37, P < 0.001).

Conclusions: Regular chest drain flushes are advocated in order to reduce rates of drain blockage, and further studies are needed to determine optimal fixation strategies that may reduce associated patient morbidity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Drainage / adverse effects*
  • Drainage / instrumentation
  • Empyema, Pleural / surgery
  • Equipment Design
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pleural Effusion, Malignant / surgery
  • Pneumothorax / surgery
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Thoracostomy