Management of computed tomography-detected pneumothorax in patients with blunt trauma: Experience from a community-based hospital

Ashraf F. Hefny, Fathima T. Kunhivalappil, Nikolay Matev, Norman A. Avila, Masoud O. Bashir, Fikri M. Abu-Zidan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


INTRODUCTION Diagnoses of pneumothorax, especially occult pneumothorax, have increased as the use of computed tomography (CT) for imaging trauma patients becomes near-routine. However, the need for chest tube insertion remains controversial. We aimed to study the management of pneumothorax detected on CT among patients with blunt trauma, including the decision for tube thoracostomy, in a community-based hospital. METHODS Chest CT scans of patients with blunt trauma treated at Al Rahba Hospital, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, from October 2010 to October 2014 were retrospectively studied. Variables studied included demography, mechanism of injury, endotracheal intubation, pneumothorax volume, chest tube insertion, Injury Severity Score, hospital length of stay and mortality. RESULTS CT was performed in 703 patients with blunt trauma. Overall, pneumothorax was detected on CT for 74 (10.5%) patients. Among the 65 patients for whom pneumothorax was detected before chest tube insertion, 25 (38.5%) needed chest tube insertion, while 40 (61.5%) did not. Backward stepwise likelihood regression showed that independent factors that significantly predicted chest tube insertion were endotracheal intubation (p = 0.01), non-United Arab Emirates nationality (p = 0.01) and pneumothorax volume (p = 0.03). The receiver operating characteristic curve showed that the best pneumothorax volume that predicted chest tube insertion was 30 mL. CONCLUSION Chest tube was inserted in less than half of the patients with blunt trauma for whom pneumothorax was detected on CT. Pneumothorax volume should be considered in decision-making regarding chest tube insertion. Conservative treatment may be sufficient for pneumothorax of volume < 30 mL.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)150-154
Number of pages5
JournalSingapore medical journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018


  • Computed tomography
  • Pneumothorax
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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