Analysis of 164 percutaneous chest tube thoracostomies performed as a standardized technical procedure in the management of 129 blunt trauma victims demonstrated an overall complication rate of 9.1% (15 of 164). Three complications (1.8%) were related to problems of insertion, and four (2.4%) represented the problem of pneumothorax after chest tube removal. The remaining eight complications (4.9%) were associated with positive bacterial cultures, two (1.2%) of which represented clinical empyema. Both cases of empyema had either prolonged chest tube placement (23 and 15 days) or multiple chest tubes (two and three) on the same side. Percutaneous chest tube thoracostomy remains an important facet in the management of certain types of blunt thoracic trauma. Associated risks can best be minimized with adherence to a standardized technique and management protocol.