Overuse of small chest drains for pleural effusions: a retrospective practice review

Link to article at PubMed

Int J Health Care Qual Assur. 2021 Apr 30;ahead-of-print(ahead-of-print). doi: 10.1108/IJHCQA-11-2020-0231.


PURPOSE: Small-bore drains (≤ 16 Fr) are used in many centers to manage all pleural effusions. The goal of this study was to determine the proportion of avoidable chest drains and associated complications when a strategy of routine chest drain insertion is in place.

DESIGN/METHODOLOGY/APPROACH: We retrospectively reviewed consecutive pleural procedures performed in the Radiology Department of the McGill University Health Centre over one year (August 2015-July 2016). Drain insertion was the default drainage strategy. An interdisciplinary workgroup established criteria for drain insertion, namely: pneumothorax, pleural infection (confirmed/highly suspected), massive effusion (more than 2/3 of hemithorax with severe dyspnea /hypoxemia), effusions in ventilated patients and hemothorax. Drains inserted without any of these criteria were deemed potentially avoidable.

FINDINGS: A total of 288 procedures performed in 205 patients were reviewed: 249 (86.5%) drain insertions and 39 (13.5%) thoracenteses. Out of 249 chest drains, 113 (45.4%) were placed in the absence of drain insertion criteria and were deemed potentially avoidable. Of those, 33.6% were inserted for malignant effusions (without subsequent pleurodesis) and 34.5% for transudative effusions (median drainage duration of 2 and 4 days, respectively). Major complications were seen in 21.5% of all procedures. Pneumothorax requiring intervention (2.1%), bleeding (0.7%) and organ puncture or drain misplacement (2%) only occurred with drain insertion. Narcotics were prescribed more frequently following drain insertion vs. thoracentesis (27.1% vs. 9.1%, p = 0.03).

ORIGINALITY/VALUE: Routine use of chest drains for pleural effusions leads to avoidable drain insertions in a large proportion of cases and causes unnecessary harms.

PMID:33909374 | DOI:10.1108/IJHCQA-11-2020-0231

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