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Pneumothorax is a rare complication of thoracic central venous catheterization in community EDs

The rate of iatrogenic pneumothorax associated with thoracic central venous catheterization in community emergency departments (EDs) is poorly described, although such information is vital to inform the procedure’s risk/benefit analysis. We undertook this multicenter study to estimate the incidence of immediate catheter-related pneumothorax in community EDs and to determine associations with site of access, failed access, and positive pressure ventilation. This was a secondary analysis of 2 retrospective cohort studies of adults who underwent attempted thoracic central venous catheterization in 1 of 21 EDs. Pneumothorax was identified by postprocedural anteroposterior chest radiograph or emergent evacuation for presumed tension pneumothorax. Frequencies were compared using Fisher’s exact test. Among 1249 patient encounters, the initial vein of catheterization was internal jugular in 1054 cases (84.4%) and subclavian in 195 cases (15.6%). Success at the initial internal jugular vein was more common than at the initial subclavian vein (95.4% vs 83.6%, P < .001). Periprocedural positive pressure ventilation was administered in 316 patients (25.3%). We identified 6 pneumothoraces (0.5%; 95% confidence interval, 0.2%-1.1%). The incidence of pneumothorax was higher with the subclavian vein than the internal jugular vein (2.3% vs 0.1%, P < .001), with failed access at the initial vein (2.5% vs 0.3%, P = .05), and among patients receiving positive pressure ventilation (1.6% vs 0.1%, P < .01). The incidence of pneumothorax from thoracic central venous catheterization in community EDs is low. The risk of pneumothorax is higher with a subclavian vein approach, failed access at the initial vein, and positive pressure ventilation.

Authors: Vinson DR; Ballard DW; Hance LG; Stevenson MD; Clague VA; Rauchwerger AS; Reed ME; Mark DG; Kaiser Permanente CREST Network Investigators

Am J Emerg Med. 2015 Jan;33(1):60-6. Epub 2014-10-18.

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