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Unexpected Fatal Tension Pneumothorax: A Case Report Regarding a Patient With Multiple Traumas on Air Medical Transportation

Published:January 15, 2021DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amj.2020.12.004

      Abstract

      A 45-year-old male driver was assessed by the road rescue team after a car crash. He was in shock and had a deep second-degree burn, multiple bone fractures, and chest wounds. After stabilization, he was delivered to the nearest local clinic by an ambulance. The doctor decided to refer him via air transportation due to the lack of sufficient facilities and the urgent need for an intensive care unit after coordination with the nearest hospital and air medical team. A Bell 214C medical helicopter was called, and transfer was initiated after patient preparation by the air medical team. A few minutes later, his clinical condition deteriorated, and because of the suspicion of a tension pneumothorax, needle thoracostomy was performed. Crosswind and frequent helicopter movements interfered with tube thoracostomy, leading the air medical crew's decision to land. After completion of tube thoracostomy and during endotracheal intubation, his heart rhythm converted to bradycardia and then asystole. Unfortunately, despite 30 minutes of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the patient died. The forensic report stated that a glassy foreign body led to penetrating chest wall injury and left lung perforation, possibly causing the tension pneumothorax, cardiopulmonary arrest, and death.
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