Lung surface anatomy and chest tubes vs needle decompression

Surface anatomy of the lungs

  • Lungs extend from about 2 cm above the clavicle down to the 6th rib in the midclavicular line and 8th rib in the midaxillary line
  • The oblique fissure goes from the 6th rib midclavicular line to T3 in the back
  • The horizontal fissure (only on the right) starts at the 4th rib at the sternum and then meets the oblique fissure at the 5th rib in the midaxillary line.
  • The pleura generally is 2 ribs below

Chest Tube

Insert a chest tube in the 4th or 5th intercostal space in the anterior axillary line. When making the incision, make it one rib below the intercostal space you want to insert the tube into. Also, remember to go above the rib, as the neurovascular bundles travel along the underside of the ribs.

These can be done to relieve a pneumothorax, drain a malignant pleural effusion, drain a empyema, or drain a hemopneumothorax. They can also be placed post-operatively following a thoracotomy, esophagectomy or cardiac surgery.

Needle Decompression

These are used in a pinch when a patient is suspected to have a tension pneumothorax and needs immediate decompression. A 14 or 16 gauge needle is inserted above the 2nd or 3rd rib in the midclavicular line.

A tension pneumothorax is recognized by:

  • Dyspnea
  • Hypotension
  • Decreased breath sounds on the affected side
  • Distended neck veins
  • Trachea deviating away from affected side

 

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