Simple aspiration versus intercostal tube drainage for primary spontaneous pneumothorax in adults

Kristin V. Carson-Chahhoud, Abel Wakai, Joseph E.M. van Agteren, Brian J. Smith, Grainne Mccabe, Malcolm P. Brinn, Ronan O'Sullivan

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46 Citations (Scopus)


Background: For management of pneumothorax that occurs without underlying lung disease, also referred to as primary spontaneous pneumothorax, simple aspiration is technically easier to perform than intercostal tube drainage. In this systematic review, we seek to compare the clinical efficacy and safety of simple aspiration versus intercostal tube drainage for management of primary spontaneous pneumothorax. This review was first published in 2007 and was updated in 2017. Objectives: To compare the clinical efficacy and safety of simple aspiration versus intercostal tube drainage for management of primary spontaneous pneumothorax. Search methods: We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL; 2017, Issue 1) in the Cochrane Library; MEDLINE (1966 to January 2017); and Embase (1980 to January 2017). We searched the World Health Organization (WHO) International Clinical Trials Registry for ongoing trials (August 2017). We checked the reference lists of included trials and contacted trial authors. We imposed no language restrictions. Selection criteria: We included randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of adults 18 years of age and older with primary spontaneous pneumothorax that compared simple aspiration versus intercostal tube drainage. Data collection and analysis: Two review authors independently selected studies for inclusion, assessed trial quality, and extracted data. We combined studies using the random-effects model. Main results: Of 2332 publications obtained through the search strategy, seven studies met the inclusion criteria; one study was ongoing and six studies of 435 participants were eligible for inclusion in the updated review. Data show a significant difference in immediate success rates of procedures favouring tube drainage over simple aspiration for management of primary spontaneous pneumothorax (risk ratio (RR) 0.78, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.69 to 0.89; 435 participants, 6 studies; moderate-quality evidence). Duration of hospitalization however was significantly less for patients treated by simple aspiration (mean difference (MD) -1.66, 95% CI -2.28 to -1.04; 387 participants, 5 studies; moderate-quality evidence). A narrative synthesis of evidence revealed that simple aspiration led to fewer adverse events (245 participants, 3 studies; low-quality evidence), but data suggest no differences between groups in terms of one-year success rate (RR 1.07, 95% CI 0.96 to 1.18; 318 participants, 4 studies; moderate-quality evidence), hospitalization rate (RR 0.60, 95% CI 0.25 to 1.47; 245 participants, 3 studies; very low-quality evidence), and patient satisfaction (median between-group difference of 0.5 on a scale from 1 to 10; 48 participants, 1 study; low-quality evidence). No studies provided data on cost-effectiveness. Authors' conclusions: Available trials showed low to moderate-quality evidence that intercostal tube drainage produced higher rates of immediate success, while simple aspiration resulted in a shorter duration of hospitalization. Although adverse events were reported more commonly for patients treated with tube drainage, the low quality of the evidence warrants caution in interpreting these findings. Similarly, although this review observed no differences between groups when early failure rate, one-year success rate, or hospital admission rate was evaluated, this too needs to be put into the perspective of the quality of evidence, specifically, for evidence of very low and low quality for hospitalization rate and patient satisfaction, respectively. Future adequately powered research is needed to strengthen the evidence presented in this review.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberCD004479
JournalCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 7 Sept 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)

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