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Chest radiographs after removal of chest drains in neonates: clinical benefit or common practice?
  1. J van den Boom1,
  2. M Battin2
  1. 1Newborn Services, Auckland City Hospital, Auckland, New Zealand
  2. 2Departments of Paediatrics and Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
  1. Correspondence to:
    J V D Boom
    National Women’s Health, Grafton Road, Auckland 1003, New Zealand; juttavdb{at}


Background: Chest drain insertion is a common procedure in neonatal care. Routine radiography after removal of chest drains increases radiation exposure, handling and cost, but there are few data proving clinical benefit.

Objectives: To review current practice and determine the yield of routinely obtained chest radiographs (CXR).

Methods: A retrospective chart review of all infants undergoing removal of chest tubes in a single tertiary neonatal unit in New Zealand between January 1998 and July 2004 was performed.

Results: In total, 119 infants were identified, from the database, to have a chest drainage performed. In 19 cases, the procedure was needle aspiration or the drain was removed outside of our unit, hence these were excluded. The remaining 100 patients with 110 episodes of chest drain removal after 174 chest tube insertions were analysed. In asymptomatic infants, routine radiography showed some reaccumulation of air in nine of 35 cases of pneumothorax or of fluid in two of the five cases of pleural effusion, but chest tube reinsertion was not required. In the 12 clinically symptomatic infants, chest tubes were reinserted in five cases (four reaccumulations of pneumothorax and one pleural effusion), and one infant had symptomatic right upper lobe collapse. In the remaining infants, there were no abnormalities on CXR accounting for deterioration.

Conclusions: Given the low yield for routine radiography after chest drain removal, we suggest that close observation is likely to detect clinically relevant recurrence of pneumothorax.

  • CXR, chest radiographs

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  • Published Online First 9 June 2006

  • Competing interests: None declared.