What are serious complications of tube thoracostomy?

Updated: Feb 24, 2020
  • Author: Gil Z Shlamovitz, MD, FACEP; Chief Editor: Nader Kamangar, MD, FACP, FCCP, FCCM  more...
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Tube dislodgement is a possible complication

Empyema may occur. Chest tube (foreign object) could introduce bacteria into the pleural space.

Retained pneumothorax or hemothorax might require insertion of a second chest tube.

Re-expansion pulmonary edema is a rare and potentially fatal complication the can occur after treatment of pneumothorax or a pleural effusion. It is more common in patient with diabetes and in patients with tension or larger-size pneumothoraces and in patients with large pleural effusions. [13]  The development of reexpansion pulmonary edema likely correlates with the amount of negative intrathoracic pressure, which, in turn, is related to the rate of fluid removal. The onset of cough and chest tightness is an important warning sign to end the procedure. Most experts recommend removal of 1-1.5 L at any one time. Supportive treatment is often sufficient. [14]

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