Outcomes of Pigtail Catheter Placement versus Chest Tube Placement in Adult Thoracic Trauma Patients: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Am Surg. 2023 Jun;89(6):2743-2754. doi: 10.1177/00031348231157809. Epub 2023 Feb 20.


Introduction: A debate currently exists regarding the efficacy of pigtail catheters vs chest tubes in the management of thoracic trauma. This meta-analysis aims to compare the outcomes of pigtail catheters vs chest tubes in adult trauma patients with thoracic injuries.

Methods: This systematic review and meta-analysis were conducted using PRISMA guidelines and registered with PROSPERO. PubMed, Google Scholar, Embase, Ebsco, and ProQuest electronic databases were queried for studies comparing the use of pigtail catheters vs chest tubes in adult trauma patients from database inception to August 15th, 2022. The primary outcome was the failure rate of drainage tubes, defined as requiring a second tube placement or VATS, unresolved pneumothorax, hemothorax, or hemopneumothorax requiring additional intervention. Secondary outcomes were initial drainage output, ICU-LOS, and ventilator days.

Results: A total of 7 studies satisfied eligibility criteria and were assessed in the meta-analysis. The pigtail group had higher initial output volumes vs the chest tube group, with a mean difference of 114.7 mL [95% CI (70.6 mL, 158.8 mL)]. Patients in the chest tube group also had a higher risk of requiring VATS vs the pigtail group, with a relative risk of 2.77 [95% CI (1.50, 5.11)].

Conclusions: In trauma patients, pigtail catheters rather than chest tubes are associated with higher initial output volume, reduced risk of VATS, and shorter tube duration. Considering the similar rates of failure, ventilator days, and ICU length-of-stay, pigtail catheters should be considered in the management of traumatic thoracic injuries.

Study type: Systematic Review and meta-analysis.

Keywords: chest tube; pigtail catheter; thoracic trauma; trauma outcomes.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Catheters
  • Chest Tubes
  • Drainage
  • Hemothorax / etiology
  • Hemothorax / therapy
  • Humans
  • Pneumothorax* / complications
  • Pneumothorax* / therapy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Thoracic Injuries* / complications
  • Thoracic Injuries* / therapy
  • Treatment Outcome