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April 26, 1976

Latrogenic Pneumothorax: An Unusual Cause

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Pediatrics, University of Maryland Hospital, Baltimore (Dr B. Vestal), and the Department of Medicine, University of Colorado Medical Center, Denver (Dr R. Vestal).

JAMA. 1976;235(17):1879-1880. doi:10.1001/jama.1976.03260430049027

PNEUMOTHORAX accounts for approximately 0.2% of all hospital admissions1 and occurs as a complication of mechanical ventilation in 4.2% of patients.2 Although the total yearly incidence of pneumothorax has remained fairly stable, there has been a steady increase in those cases due to iatrogenic causes.3 This increase is due primarily to improvements in the management of critically and acutely ill patients with increased use of endotracheal intubation, external cardiac massage, percutaneous subclavian catheterization, and continuous ventilatory support. The two case reports that follow should alert physicians to an unusual cause of pneumothorax related to the use of supplemental oxygen, a practice especially common in emergency medicine.

Report of Cases 

Case 1.—  In June 1973, a 26-year-old man was admitted to Denver General Hospital after acute ethanol poisoning. He was comatose, unresponsive to painful stimuli, and areflexic. Vital signs and results of a physical examination were otherwise unremarkable.