Send to

Choose Destination
Prehosp Disaster Med. 2015 Jun;30(3):249-53. doi: 10.1017/S1049023X15004653. Epub 2015 Apr 10.

Sufficient catheter length for pneumothorax needle decompression: a meta-analysis.

Author information

1University at Buffalo,Department of Emergency Medicine,Buffalo,New YorkUSA.
2State University of New York Upstate Medical University,Department of Emergency Medicine,SyracuseNew YorkUSA.
3University at Albany,School of Public Health,Albany,New YorkUSA.
4John Carroll University,Department of Mathematics and Computer Science,Cleveland,OhioUSA.



Needle thoracostomy is the prehospital treatment for tension pneumothorax. Sufficient catheter length is necessary for procedural success. The authors of this study determined minimum catheter length needed for procedural success on a percentile basis.


A meta-analysis of existing studies was conducted. A Medline search was performed using the search terms: needle decompression, needle thoracentesis, chest decompression, pneumothorax decompression, needle thoracostomy, and tension pneumothorax. Studies were included if they published a sample size, mean chest wall thickness, and a standard deviation or confidence interval. A PubMed search was performed in a similar fashion. Sample size, mean chest wall thickness, and standard deviation were found or calculated for each study. Data were combined to create a pooled dataset. Normal distribution of data was assumed. Procedural success was defined as catheter length being equal to or greater than the chest wall thickness.


The Medline and PubMed searches yielded 773 unique studies; all study abstracts were reviewed for possible inclusion. Eighteen papers were identified for full manuscript review. Thirteen studies met all inclusion criteria and were included in the analysis. Pooled sample statistics were: n=2,558; mean=4.19 cm; and SD=1.37 cm. Minimum catheter length needed for success at the 95th percentile for chest wall size was found to be 6.44 cm.


A catheter of at least 6.44 cm in length would be required to ensure that 95% of the patients in this pooled sample would have penetration of the pleural space at the site of needle decompression, and therefore, a successful procedure. These findings represent Level III evidence.


ATLS Advanced Trauma Life Support; IV intravenous; needle decompression; pneumothorax; prehospital; thoracostomy

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Cambridge University Press
Loading ...
Support Center