I showed you this x-ray the other day, and asked what the problem was.
If you look carefully, you can see the lung outline in the middle of the right side of the chest. Big-time pneumothorax despite what looks like a perfectly placed tube. There are several possible explanations, and many of you sent me your guesses:
The tube is in the lung. This rarely happens to normal lungs. Sure, you can probably do it to an ARDS lung, but otherwise it’s not likely.
The tube is in the fissure. This does happen on occasion, but not often. And many times it works anyway.
The tube is occluded or kinked. A PA or AP chest x-ray will show the kink, although bent tubes frequently work anyway. If a hemothorax is present, it is possible that a clot is plugging the tube. Clearing a plugged tube will be the subject of another post.
It’s not really a chest tube. Hopefully, this would have been detected when it was placed, but it’s not always. The chest x-ray above looks great, right? Unfortunately, it’s a 2 dimensional representation of a 3-D object. Where is that tube in the z-axis?
In this case the correct answer is the last one. This is one time when I would actually recommend a lateral chest x-ray. Have a look at the result. You can clearly see the tube snaking around into the soft tissues of the back.
Bottom line: Remember that a perfect x-ray doesn’t necessarily mean a perfect tube. Go through the various possibilities quickly, and make it work.
I know, it’s hard to believe, but this blog turns 5 years old today!
It’s been so much fun to see my readership grow over the past years. I’m so thankful to my thousands of readers all over the world. I’m also grateful for all the questions that I get from trainees and trauma professionals everywhere. It keeps me on my toes and keeps me reading and learning every day.
In the coming year, I will continue to try to provide answers to those pesky questions that you really can’t find anywhere else. I’ll also continue to try to digest stuff for you that is in the literature and give you my take on it, as well as whether I think it’s important or just plain bogus.
So THANK YOU very much, and have a fantastic new year. Keep those questions coming so I’ve got plenty to write about in the coming year.
A patient is transferred to your facility who had, as one of his problems, a sizable pneumothorax. A chest drain was placed at an outside facility prior to transfer. It is now 2 hours later, and as you finish evaluating him, you get the following x-ray.
What’s the problem here? How do you fix it? Tweet, email, or leave comments with your answers. Discussion and final answer on Friday!
Yesterday, I wrote about an unusual way to use the Foley urinary catheter to plug a heart wound. This allows you to buy time to get to the operating room to perform the definitive repair. But this cheap and effective tool is very versatile, and can be used in other body areas as well.
Consider a deep penetrating injury to the liver. It takes time to determine which method for slowing/stopping the bleeding is most appropriate. Sure, the doctor books say to occlude the inflow by gently clamping the hepatoduodenal ligament (Pringle maneuver). But this takes time, and can be difficult if there is lots of bleeding.
You may be able to gain some time by placing a properly sized Foley catheter directly into the wound and carefully inflating with saline. You must inflate the balloon to feel, not to its full volume. It should be snug, but not so full that it cracks the liver parenchyma and causes yet more bleeding.
Bottom line: Any time you find yourself facing bleeding from hard to expose places, think about using a balloon catheter like the Foley. Sizing is critical, and the balloon volume is more important than the catheter diameter. Estimate the size of the area that needs to be occluded, and then ask for a catheter with a 10cc or 30cc balloon. If you need smaller, more precise control, try a Fogarty arterial embolectomy catheter instead.
As with the cardiac Foley, be sure to occlude the end so you don’t create a conduit for the blood to escape. If your patient does well, and you need to leave the catheter in place for a damage control closure, LEAVE THE CATHETER COMPLETELY WITHIN THE ABDOMEN. If you exteriorize the end, some well-meaning person may unclamp it, drop the balloon, or decide that it can be used for tube feedings.
TIP: If the distance between the balloon and the catheter tip is too long, DO NOT TRY TO SHORTEN THE TIP BY CUTTING IT! This will damage the balloon and it will not inflate.
Foley catheters are a mainstay of medical care in patients who need control or measurement of urine output. Leave it to trauma surgeons to find warped, new ways to use them!
Use of these catheters to tamponade penetrating cardiac injuries has been recognized for decades (see picture, 2 holes!). Less well appreciated is their use to stop bleeding from other penetrating wounds.
Foley catheters can be inserted into just about any small penetrating wound with bleeding that does not respond to direct pressure. (Remember, direct pressure is applied by one or two fingers only, with no flat dressings underneath to diffuse the pressure). Arterial bleeding, venous bleeding or both can be controlled with this technique.
In general, the largest catheter with the largest possible balloon should be selected. It is then inserted directly into the wound until the entire balloon is inside the body. Inflate the balloon using saline until firm resistance is encounted, and the bleeding hopefully stops. Important: be sure to clamp the end of the catheter so the bleeding doesn’t find the easy way out!
Use of catheter tamponade buys some time, but these patients need to be in the OR. In general, once other life threatening issues are dealt with in the resuscitation room, the patient should be moved directly to the operating room. In rare cases, an angiogram may be needed to help determine the type of repair. However, in the vast majority of cases, the surgeon will know exactly where the injury is and further study is not needed. The catheter is then prepped along with most of the patient so that the operative repair can be completed.