Identifying pitfalls in chest tube insertion: Improving teaching and performance

James S. Davis, George D. Garcia, Jassin M. Jouria, Mary M. Wyckoff, Salman Alsafran, Jill M. Graygo, Kelly F. Withum, Carl I. Schulman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Objective: Chest tube thoracostomies are common surgical procedures, but little is known about how practitioners learn the skill. This study evaluates the frequency with which correctly performed tasks are executed by subjects during chest tube thoracostomies. Design: In this prospective study, we developed a mobile-learning module, containing stepwise multimedia guidance on chest tube insertion. Next, we developed and tested a 14-item checklist, modeled after key skills in the module. Participants, defined as novice (fewer than 10 chest tubes placed) or expert (10 or more placed), were assigned to either the video or control group. A trained clinician used the checklist to rate participants while they inserted a chest tube on a TraumaMan simulator. Setting: University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine, a tertiary care academic institution. Participants: Current medical students, residents, and the United States Army Forward Surgical Team members rotating through the institution. One hundred twenty-eight subjects entered and finished the study. Results: One hundred twenty-eight subjects enrolled in the study; 86 (67%) were residents or US Army Forward Surgical Team members, 66 (77%) were novices, and 20 (23%) were experts. Novices most frequently connected the tube to suction (91%), adequately dissected the soft tissue (82%), and scrubbed or anesthetized appropriately (80%). They least frequently completed full finger sweeps (33%), avoided the neurovascular bundle (35%), and performed a controlled pleural puncture (39%). Comparing the novice video group with the novice control group, the video group was more likely to correctly perform a finger sweep (42%, p<0.001) and clamp the distal end of the chest tube (42%, p<0.001). Of all the steps, experts least frequently completed full finger sweeps (70%) and avoided the neurovascular bundle (75%). Comparing the expert video group with the expert control group, the video group was more likely to correctly perform finger sweeps, the incision, and clamping the distal chest tube (20%, p = not significant). Conclusions: Avoiding the neurovascular bundle, controlled pleural entry, and finger sweeps are most often performed incorrectly among novices. This information can help instructors to emphasize key didactic steps, possibly easing trainees' learning curve.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)334-339
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Surgical Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2013


  • chest tube
  • instruction
  • procedure
  • simulation
  • surgical educa- tion
  • thoracostomies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Education


Dive into the research topics of 'Identifying pitfalls in chest tube insertion: Improving teaching and performance'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this