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Do junior doctors know where to insert chest drains safely?
  1. J R Griffiths,
  2. N Roberts
  1. Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Northern General Hospital, University Hospitals Sheffield, Sheffield, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr J Griffiths
 Department of Accident and Emergency, Rotherham General Hospital, Moorgate Road, Rotherham, South Yorkshire S60 2UD, UK;


Background: The safe insertion of a chest drain is a skill doctors across specialties require. Incorrect placement can lead to significant morbidity and even mortality.

Methods: This audit surveyed junior doctors working in a teaching hospital about their specialty and level of experience with intercostal drains. They were then asked to mark on a photograph where they would insert a chest drain for a pneumothorax in a non-emergency situation.

Results: Of the 55 junior doctors surveyed, 45% were outside the safe area of chest drain insertion as defined by the British Thoracic Society. The most common error was a choice of insertion site too low (24%).

Conclusions: In this audit 45% of juniors surveyed would have placed a chest drain outside the safe triangle recommended by the British Thoracic Society. The common mistake of a choice of insertion site too low should be discussed in postgraduate teaching programmes.

  • audit
  • chest drain
  • junior doctors
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  • Funding: none.

  • Conflicts of interest: none declared.

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