The Heimlich Valve for Pleural Cavity Drainage
Introduction: Traditional chest tube fixation and drainage has been undertaken using standard rigid chest tubes connected to under water seal bottles. These are bulky, cumbersome, expensive, and pose a risk of accidental air suction into the chest. One-way valve systems such as the Heimlich valve are small, portable apparatus that allow regulation of fluid flow and require minimal nursing care other than daily charting. Methods: A retrospective descriptive analysis of all chest drains connected to a Heimlich valve between January 2009 and December 2012. Data on indications, duration of drainage and frequency of complications was collected. Results: Fifty seven chest tubes connected to a Heimlich valve were inserted over the study period. Majority were for pleural effusions. No complications were encountered. Four patients (7%) required thoracotomy. The average duration to removal was 6 days and all patients reported satisfactory comfort and mobility. Conclusion: The Heimlich valve is a feasible and cheap alternative method of chest tube drainage with high rates of success and very low morbidity. We propose their usage in resource-constrained settings.
Keywords: Thoracentesis, Heimlich, Thoracostomy
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