A porcine pneumothorax model for teaching ultrasound diagnostics

Acad Emerg Med. 2012 May;19(5):586-92. doi: 10.1111/j.1553-2712.2012.01349.x.


Objectives: Ultrasound (US) is a sensitive diagnostic tool for detecting pneumothorax (PTX), but methods are needed to optimally teach this technique outside of direct patient care. In training and research settings, porcine PTX models are sometimes used, but the description of the PTX topography in these models is lacking. The study purpose was to define the distribution of air using the reference imaging standard computed tomography (CT), to see if pleural insufflation of air into a live anaesthetized pig truly imitates a PTX in an injured patient.

Methods: A unilateral catheter was inserted into one pleural cavity of each of 20 pigs, and 500 mL of air was insufflated. After a complete thoracic CT scan, the anterior, lateral, medial, basal, apical, and posterior components of the PTXs were compared. The amount of air in each location was quantified by measuring the distance from the lung edge to the chest wall (LE-CW). A supine anteroposterior chest radiograph (CXR) was taken from each model and interpreted by a senior radiologist, and the image results were compared to CT.

Results: All 20 hemithoraces with PTX were correctly identified by CT, while six remained occult after interpreting the CXRs. The PTXs were anterior (100%), lateral (95%), medial (80%), basal (60%), apical (45%), and posterior (15%). The major proportion of the insufflated 500-mL volume was found in the anterior, medial, and basal recesses.

Conclusions: The authors found the distribution of the intrathoracic air to be similar between a porcine model and that to be expected in human trauma patients, all having predominantly anterior PTX topographies. In a training facility, the model is easy to set up and can be scanned by the participants multiple times. To acquire the necessary skills to perform thoracic US examinations for PTX, the porcine models could be useful.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Models, Animal*
  • Pneumothorax / diagnostic imaging*
  • Radiography, Thoracic
  • Swine
  • Teaching / methods*
  • Thorax / diagnostic imaging*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Ultrasonography