Two hundred and fifty one cases of penetrating wounds of the chest were studied prospectively. Clinical evidence is presented to show that: basal intercostal drains are adequate to remove both air and fluid from within the pleural cavity; frequent chest radiographs are unnecessary and intercostal drains may be removed on clinical grounds alone; long term antibiotic prophylaxis is unnecessary; eight per cent of those undergoing initial observation will develop a delayed haemothorax or pneumothorax of sufficient size to require drainage; subcutaneous emphysema is of no prognostic significance in the symptomless patient with minimal intrapleural damage on admission; and outpatient follow up is not required.
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