Needle decompression in tension pneumothorax: anterior or lateral approach?

Background: For tension pneumothorax, the UK recommendation is to use a 14 g, 5 cm cannula to decompress the chest. Advice around site selection differs between using the second intercostal space (ICS) mid-clavicular line or the fifth ICS near the mid-axillary line. The aim of this literature review is to determine the best approach for needle decompression using a standard 14 g, 5 cm cannula. Methods: A systematic search of multiple databases was conducted, using inclusion and exclusion criteria. Outcomes were tabulated to identify any trends between various criteria including success with a 5 cm cannula. Results: Thirty-one studies were found, of which four were included. Mean chest wall thickness was 35.8 mm at the anterior site and 39.7 mm at the lateral site. Overall success rates with a 5 cm catheter were on average 79.7% at the anterior and 80% at the lateral position. Conclusion: There is no significant difference in success between using the anterior or the lateral approach for needle decompression.

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