Traumatic tension pneumothorax: experience from 115 consecutive patients in a trauma service in South Africa.
Kong V., Sartorius B., Clarke D.
Traumatic tension pneumothorax (TPTX) is a life threatening condition, but literature describing this condition specifically in developing countries is scarce.We conducted a retrospective review of 115 patients with a TPTX, managed over a 4-year period in a high volume trauma service in South Africa.A total of 118 TPTXs were identified in 115 patients. Eighty-nine percent (102/115) were males, and the mean age was 26 years (SD ± 6 years). Seventy-four percent (87/118) of all TPTXs occurred on the left side. The mechanisms of injury were penetrating in 71 % (82/115) [82 stab injuries], and blunt in 29 % (33/115) [31 road traffic accidents and 2 assaults]. Ninety-seven percent (111/115) of patients presented directly to our unit, while 3 % (4/115) were referrals from other hospitals. Fifteen percent (17/115) of needle decompressions were performed in the pre-hospital setting while the remaining 85 % (98/115) were performed on arrival (73 were recognised clinically and 25 were not). Of the 25 TPTXs that were not recognised clinically on initial assessment, 12 were discovered on CXR, 8 on CT scans and 5 in the operating room (OR). The overall mortality was 9 % (10/115) [7 in CXR, 2 in CT, 1 in OR]. None of the patients who had the TPTXs identified on initial clinical assessment died (0/73), compared with those who were missed on initial clinical assessment, in which the mortality was significantly higher at 40 % (10/25), (p < 0.001).Penetrating injuries accounted for the majority of TPTXs seen in our setting. Clinical recognition of the entity may be challenging and delayed recognition is associated with significant mortality.