Introduction Intercostal tube drainage of pleural air or fluid is an essential tool in the management of respiratory patients. A common complication of drain insertion is accidental removal of the drain, usually as a result of inadequate securing techniques, with rates of up to 21% quoted in the literature.1,2 This often results in the need for further pleural procedures (including drain re-siting), with associated additional risk to the patient and an increase in health care costs. One suggested method to reduce premature drain removal is to use intercostal drains with ballooned tips. These would provide a relatively atraumatic physical obstruction to the thoracostomy site, whilst being easy to use as stitching or extensive taping may not be required.
Methods We conducted a pilot study of a dedicated 16F ballooned intercostal drain (Rocket Medical; Figure 1) to assess its safety and feasibility, and to give an indication as to whether a reduction in accidental early drain removal could be achieved. Drains were inserted under ultrasound guidance using the Seldinger technique and secured with dedicated dressings. Skin sutures were not applied. Pain scores were collected from a subset of 11 patients using a visual analogue scale (VAS) from 0 (no pain) to 10 (worst pain imaginable) at insertion, 24h post-insertion, and drain removal to ensure pleural irritation was not prohibitive.
Results Twenty patients requiring intercostal tube drainage as an in-patient for pleural effusion were recruited from a single hospital site. Of the drains inserted, 1/20 (5%) was prematurely dislodged., comparing favourably with the literature. Inspection of the device showed that the balloon had become partially unglued from the drain, hence deflation. The patient did not require further pleural procedures. No other drain-related adverse events were recorded. The drains were generally well tolerated, with median(range) pain scores at insertion, 24 hours, and removal of 1 (0–7), 3 (0–8), and 2 (0–7).
Conclusion The use of a dedicated ballooned intercostal drain is safe and feasible, and may reduce the need for drain re-siting. A larger randomised trial is planned.
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