Chest X-ray - Tubes
Chest Drains - Complications

Key points

  • Complications of chest drain insertion include pneumothorax and surgical emphysema

Iatrogenic pneumothorax

Traumatic placement of a chest drain inserted to treat a pleural effusion, can lead to lung injury and formation of a pneumothorax.

Iatrogenic pneumothorax

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Iatrogenic pneumothorax

  • This chest drain was placed to treat a pleural effusion
  • The effusion, which was very large, has been nearly completely drained leaving only a relatively small volume of residual fluid
  • Injury to the lung at the time of drain insertion has led to formation of a large pneumothorax

Surgical emphysema

Surgical emphysema may result from incorrect tube positioning such that the end is located within soft tissues of the chest wall. This may also occur if the tube becomes displaced following correct tube placement.

Surgical emphysema

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Surgical emphysema

  • This chest drain is located within soft tissues of the chest wall
  • There is a pneumothorax (asterisks) and widespread surgical emphysema over the left chest wall

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

Last reviewed: February 2016