Prehospital Needle Decompression of Suspected Tension Pneumothorax: Outcomes and Consequences

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American Surgeon


Tension pneumothorax (TPT) identified in the prehospital setting requires prehospital needle decompression (PHND). This study aimed to evaluate complications from PHND when it was performed without meeting clinical criteria. A retrospective review was performed of patients undergoing (PHND) from 2016 through 2022 at a level 1 trauma center. Patient data who received PHND were reviewed. Of 115 patients, 85 did not meet at least one clinical criterion for PHND. The majority of patients in this cohort 76 (89%) required a chest tube and 22 (25%) had an iatrogenic pneumothorax from PHND. 5 patients (6%) were admitted due to iatrogenic PHND. Two vascular injuries in this population were directly due to PHND and required emergency operative repair. This study shows the negative consequences of PHND when performed without clear indications. Several patients underwent unnecessary procedures with significant clinical consequences.

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