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Vented versus unvented chest seals for treatment of pneumothorax and prevention of tension pneumothorax in a swine model

Kheirabadi, Bijan S. PhD; Terrazas, Irasema B. MS; Koller, Alexandra BS; Allen, Paul B. DSc, PA-C; Klemcke, Harold G. PhD; Convertino, Victor A. PhD; Dubick, Michael A. PhD; Gerhardt, Robert T. MD, MPH; Blackbourne, Lorne H. MD

Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery: July 2013 - Volume 75 - Issue 1 - p 150–156
doi: 10.1097/TA.0b013e3182988afe
EAST 2013 Poster Papers

BACKGROUND Unvented chest seals (CSs) are currently recommended for the management of penetrating thoracic injuries in the battlefield. Since no supporting data exist, we compared the efficacy of a preferred unvented with that of a vented CS in a novel swine model of pneumothorax (PTx).

METHODS An open chest wound was created in the left thorax of spontaneously air-breathing anesthetized pigs (n = 8). A CS was applied over the injury, then tension PTx was induced by incremental air injections (0.2 L) into the pleural cavity via a cannula that was also used to measure intrapleural pressure (IP). Both CS were tested on each pig in series. Tidal volume (VT), respiratory rate, IP, heart rate, mean arterial pressure, cardiac output, central venous pressure, pulmonary arterial pressure, venous and peripheral oxygen saturations (SvO2, SpO2) were recorded. Tension PTx was defined as a mean IP equal to or greater than +1 mm Hg plus significant (20–30%) deviation in baseline levels of the previously mentioned parameters and confirmed by chest x-ray study. PaO2 and PaCo2 were also measured.

RESULTS PTx produced immediate breathing difficulty and significant rises in IP and pulmonary arterial pressure and falls in VT, SpO2, and SvO2. Both CSs returned these parameters to near baseline within 5 minutes of application. After vented CS was applied, serial air injections up to 2 L resulted in no significant change in the previously mentioned parameters. After unvented CS application, progressive deterioration of all respiratory parameters and onset of tension PTx were observed in all subjects after approximately 1.4-L air injection.

CONCLUSION Both vented and unvented CSs provided immediate improvements in breathing and blood oxygenation in our model of penetrating thoracic trauma. However, in the presence of ongoing intrapleural air accumulation, the unvented CS led to tension PTx, hypoxemia, and possible respiratory arrest, while the vented CS prevented these outcomes.

From the US Army Institute of Surgical Research, Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas.

Submitted: December 7, 2012, Revised: February 4, 2013, Accepted: March 8, 2013.

This study was presented as a poster at the 26th annual meeting of the Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma (EAST), January 15–19, 2013, in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The opinions or assertions expressed herein are the private views of the authors and are not to be construed as official or as reflecting the views of the US Department of Defense.

Address for reprints: Bijan S. Kheirabadi, PhD, 3650 Chambers Pass, BHT2, Bldg 3610, Fort Sam Houston, TX 78234; email:

© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.