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Andreas Schweiger

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LiJuan Gao

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Myat Thet

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Background: Chest X-rays are routinely obtained after removal of chest drains in patients undergoing cardiac and thoracic surgical procedures. However, a lack of guidelines and evidence could question the practice. Routine chest X-rays increase exposure to ionising radiation, increase healthcare costs and lead to overutilisation of available resources. This review aims to explore the evidence in the literature regarding the routine use of chest X-rays following the removal of chest drains. Materials & Method: A systematic literature search was conducted in PubMed, Medline via Ovid, Cochrane central register of control trials (CENTRAL) and without any limit on the publication year. The references of the included studies are manually screened to identify potentially eligible studies. Results: A total of 375 studies were retrieved through the search and 18 studies were included in the review. Incidence of pneumothorax remains less than 10% across adult cardiac, and paediatric cardiac and thoracic surgical populations. The incidence may be as high as 50% in adult thoracic surgical patients. However, the re-intervention rate remains less than 2% across the populations. Development of respiratory and cardiovascular symptoms can adequately guide for a chest X-ray following the drain removal. As an alternative, bedside ultrasound can be used to detect pneumothorax in the thorax after the removal of a chest drain without the need for ionising radiation. Conclusion: A routine chest X-ray following chest drain removal in adult and paediatric patients undergoing cardiac and thoracic surgery is not necessary. It can be omitted without compromising patient safety. Obtaining a chest X-ray should be clinically guided. Alternatively, bedside ultrasound can be used for the same purpose without the need for radiation exposure.

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Matti Jubouri

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