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Major Complications In Placement Of Surgical Chest Tube

A chest tube is a hollow plastic tube that is inserted into the chest cavity to drain air or fluid. Fluid in the chest may be blood (such as following surgery or trauma), pus (from an infection such as pneumonia), serous fluid, or contain cancer cells. 

It is always recommended to take advice from an expert physician before undergoing this treatment as the poor placement of surgical thoracic tubes can lead to major complications.

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The complications of chest tube placement are similar to those found with other types of surgery and may include:

  • Bleeding: Sometimes blood vessels are "nicked" while inserting the chest tube. If bleeding persists, surgery may be needed to cauterize the vessels.2
  • Infection: Any time an instrument is introduced through the skin, there is a small risk of infection. The risk of infection increases the longer the tube is left in place.
  • Pain: Though the area through which a chest tube is placed is anesthetized, it is difficult to totally numb the area through which a chest tube is inserted.4 In addition, local anesthetics will not remove the sense of pulling as the tube is inserted.
  • Poor tube placement -some pleural effusions are "loculated," in other words, have several small collections of water, pus, or blood, which is separated by tissue. When this is the case a chest tube may only drain that collection of fluid in the area where the chest tube is placed.