Needle aspiration versus intercostal tube drainage for pneumothorax in the newborn

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016 Jan 11:(1):CD011724. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD011724.pub2.


Background: Pneumothorax occurs more frequently in the neonatal period than at any other time of life and is associated with increased mortality and morbidity. It may be treated with either needle aspiration or insertion of a chest tube. The former consists of aspiration of air with a syringe through a needle or an angiocatheter, usually through the second or third intercostal space in the midclavicular line. The chest tube is usually placed in the anterior pleural space passing through the sixth intercostal space into the pleural opening, turned anteriorly and directed to the location of the pneumothorax, and then connected to a Heimlich valve or an underwater seal with continuous suction.

Objectives: To compare the efficacy and safety of needle aspiration and intercostal tube drainage in the management of neonatal pneumothorax.

Search methods: We used the standard search strategy of the Cochrane Neonatal Review group to search the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL 2015, Issue 11), MEDLINE via PubMed (1966 to 30 November 2015), EMBASE (1980 to 30 November 2015), and CINAHL (1982 to 30 November 2015). We also searched clinical trials databases, conference proceedings, and the reference lists of retrieved articles for randomised controlled trials and quasi-randomised trials.

Selection criteria: Randomised controlled trials, quasi-randomised controlled trials and cluster trials comparing needle aspiration (either with the needle or angiocatheter left in situ or removed immediately after aspiration) to intercostal tube drainage in newborn infants with pneumothorax.

Data collection and analysis: For each of the included trial, two authors independently extracted data (e.g. number of participants, birth weight, gestational age, kind of needle and chest tube, choice of intercostal space, pressure and device for drainage) and assessed the risk of bias (e.g. adequacy of randomisation, blinding, completeness of follow-up). The primary outcomes considered in this review are mortality during the neonatal period and during hospitalisation.

Main results: One randomised controlled trial (72 infants) met the inclusion criteria of this review. We found no differences in the rates of mortality (risk ratio (RR) 1.50, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.27 to 8.45) or complications related to the procedure. After needle aspiration, the angiocatheter was left in situ (mean 27.1 hours) and not removed immediately after the aspiration. The angiocatheter was in place for a shorter duration than the intercostal tube (mean difference (MD) -11.20 hours, 95% CI -15.51 to -6.89). None of the 36 newborns treated with needle aspiration with the angiocatheter left in situ required the placement of an intercostal tube drainage. Overall, the quality of the evidence supporting this finding is low.

Authors' conclusions: At present there is insufficient evidence to determine the efficacy and safety of needle aspiration versus intercostal tube drainage in the management of neonatal pneumothorax. Randomised controlled trials comparing the two techniques are warranted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Chest Tubes*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Pneumothorax / mortality
  • Pneumothorax / therapy*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risk
  • Suction / instrumentation
  • Suction / methods
  • Thoracentesis / instrumentation
  • Thoracentesis / methods*
  • Thoracostomy / methods