Drain/surgical emphysema

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Drain/surgical emphysema

  • Surgical emphysema (subcutaneous trapped air) is a complication of chest drain insertion, or sometimes of the pneumothorax itself.
  • Surgical emphysema can form because of poor technique during drain insertion or because of displacement of the drain such that a side hole near the end of the drain lies within the subcutaneous tissues.
  • Surgical emphysema has the clinical characteristic of feeling like 'rice crispies' or 'bubble wrap' on palpation.

Page author: Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust UK (Read bio)

Last reviewed: October 2019