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Events before the diagnosis of a pneumothorax in ventilated neonates
  1. M Watkinson,
  2. I Tiron
  1. Neonatal Unit, Birmingham Heartlands Hospital, Birmingham B9 5SS, UK
  1. Dr Watkinsonwatkinm{at}


AIM To examine the relation of overventilation and other clinical events to the development of pneumothoraces in ventilated neonates.

METHODS A case-control study.

RESULTS Fifty three (8.7%) of 606 ventilated neonates developed a pneumothorax. Eighteen (34%) cases and 23 (43%) controls were unintentionally overventilated (Paco 2 < 4 kPa) at some time before the pneumothorax developed in the cases (odds ratio (OR) = 0.78, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.48 to 1.27). In the three hours before the diagnosis of pneumothorax, more cases than controls were reintubated (21/53 v 4/53; OR = 5.25, 95% CI 1.9 to 14.3), and also in seven cases (one control) the mean airway pressure was increased, whereas in nine controls (no cases) it was reduced (χ2  = 12.0, df = 2, p = 0.001). Seven of 18 neonates diagnosed by transillumination had undergone no clinical procedures before diagnosis compared with five of 35 diagnosed radiologically (OR = 2.7, 95% CI 1.0 to 7.4).

CONCLUSIONS Unintentional overventilation was not associated with pneumothoraces. In the hours before diagnosis, there was increased clinical intervention, including reintubation; this was less so in those diagnosed by transillumination. The study did not elucidate whether such interventions caused the pneumothorax or were secondary to a failure to diagnose it.

Key messages

Key messages

  • Brief inadvertent overventilation was not associated with pneumothoraces

  • There was a cluster of clinical procedures before the diagnosis of a pneumothorax. This included reintubation and increases in airway pressure. This study did not establish whether these procedures caused pneumothoraces or were undertaken because an undiagnosed pneumothorax was already causing clinical deterioration.

  • pneumothorax
  • ventilation
  • transillumination

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