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Management of paediatric spontaneous pneumothorax: a multicentre retrospective case series


Objectives Paediatric guidelines are lacking for management of spontaneous pneumothorax. Adult patient-focused guidelines (British Thoracic Society 2003 and 2010) introduced aspiration as first-line intervention for primary spontaneous pneumothorax (PSP) and small secondary spontaneous pneumothoraces (SSP). Paediatric practice is unclear, and evidence for aspiration success rates is urgently required to develop paediatric-specific recommendations.

Methods Retrospective analysis of PSP and SSP management at nine paediatric emergency departments across Australia and New Zealand (2003–2010) to compare PSP and SSP management.

Results 219 episodes of spontaneous pneumothorax occurred in 162 children (median age 15 years, 71% male); 155 PSP episodes in 120 children and 64 SSP episodes in 42 children. Intervention in PSP vs SSP episodes occurred in 55% (95% CI 47% to 62%) vs 70% (60% to 79%), p<0.05. An intercostal chest catheter (ICC) was used in 104/219 (47%) episodes. Aspiration was used in more PSP than in SSP episodes with interventions (27% (18% to 37%) vs 9% (3% to 21%), p<0.05). Aspiration success was 52% (33% to 70%) overall and not significantly different between PSP and SSP. Aspiration success was greater in small vs large pneumothoraces (80% (48% to 95%) vs 33% (14% to 61%), p=0.01). Small-bore ICCs were used in 40% of ICCs and usage increased during the study.

Conclusions In this descriptive study of pneumothorax management, PSP and SSP management did not differ and ICC insertion was the continuing preferred intervention. Overall success of aspiration was lower than reported results for adults, although success was greater for small than for large pneumothoraces. Paediatric prospective studies are urgently required to determine optimal paediatric interventional management strategies.

  • Paediatric Practice
  • Respiratory
  • Accident & Emergency

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