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Placement and management of thoracostomy tubes

John T Huggins, MD
Shamus Carr, MD, FACS
Section Editors
Allan B Wolfson, MD
Joseph S Friedberg, MD
Anne M Stack, MD
Eileen M Bulger, MD, FACS
V Courtney Broaddus, MD
Deputy Editor
Kathryn A Collins, MD, PhD, FACS


Tube thoracostomy is a procedure in which a tube is placed through the chest wall into the pleural cavity primarily to drain air or fluid, but the tube can also be used to instill agents to induce pleurodesis or to treat empyema.

The indications, contraindications, technique, management, and complications of thoracostomy tube placement will be reviewed here. Specific medical and surgical conditions that result in the need to perform thoracostomy for pleural drainage are discussed in separate topic reviews.


Thoracostomy tube placement is indicated for the following conditions:


Spontaneous pneumothorax (see "Primary spontaneous pneumothorax in adults" and "Secondary spontaneous pneumothorax in adults")

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Jul 17, 2017.
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