FINGER: A Novel Approach to Teaching Simple Thoracostomy

Published:August 28, 2022DOI:


      For decades, most prehospital clinicians have only been armed with needle thoracostomy to treat a tension pneumothorax, which has a significant failure rate. Following recent changes by the US military, more ground and air transport agencies are adopting simple thoracostomy, also commonly referred to as finger thoracostomy, as a successful alternative. However, surgical procedures performed by prehospital clinicians remain uncommon, intimidating, and challenging. Therefore, it is imperative to adopt a training strategy that is comprehensive, concise, and memorable to best reduce cognitive load on clinicians while in a high-acuity, low-frequency situation. We suggest the following mnemonic to aid in learning and retention of the key procedural steps: FINGER (Find landmarks; Inject lidocaine/pain medicine; No infection allowed; Generous incision; Enter pleural space; Reach in with finger, sweep, reassess). This teaching aid may help develop and maintain competence in the simple thoracostomy procedure, leading to successful treatment of both a tension pneumothorax and hemothorax.
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