Chest injuries are the cause of death in 25% of trauma fatalities, and a major contributing factor in an additional 50%. Pneumothorax, the second most common chest injury, may often be initially overlooked. Administration of anesthesia and mechanical ventilation may produce enlargement of a pneumothorax and clinical deterioration. We reviewed 90 trauma patients who had been admitted with a diagnosis of pneumothorax or who had developed pneumothoraces after hospital admission. In 35 cases (38.8%), initial supine chest x-ray study failed to detect a pneumothorax, and the diagnosis was made on CT scan of the chest or abdomen performed within 2 hours of admission. In 15 of these cases (42.8%), identification of the pneumothorax on CT scan resulted in alterations in management, including chest tube placement in 10 patients and intensified monitoring in 5 patients. Failure to identify pneumothoraces in trauma patients may lead to deterioration and significant complications in patients requiring anesthesia or mechanical ventilation. CT scan may facilitate identification in these cases.