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AORN J. 2010 Feb;91(2):275-80; quiz 281-3. doi: 10.1016/j.aorn.2009.09.026.

Managing a chest tube and drainage system.

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University Hospital Lewisham, London, UK.


Intercostal drainage tubes (ie, chest tubes) are inserted to drain the pleural cavity of air, blood, pus, or lymph. The water-seal container connected to the chest tube allows one-way movement of air and liquid from the pleural cavity. The container should not be changed unless it is full, and the chest tube should not be clamped unnecessarily. After a chest tube is inserted, a nurse trained in chest-tube management is responsible for managing the chest tube and drainage system. This entails monitoring the chest-tube position, controlling fluid evacuation, identifying when to change or empty the containers, and caring for the tube and drainage system during patient transport. This article provides an overview of indications, insertion techniques, and management of chest tubes.

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