Use of a Digital Air Leak Detection Device to Decrease Chest Tube Duration


The aim of this evidence-based practice project was to determine if a digital air leak detection device could speed the identification of chest tube air leak cessation in patients after pulmonary lobectomy. Staff members assessing air leaks have varying levels of expertise, and the digital device is a limited resource in the study institution. A chest tube management algorithm is necessary to standardize care and determine which patients are most likely to benefit.


Twenty-five consecutive patients who underwent pulmonary lobectomy during the study period and continued to have a chest tube air leak on postoperative day 3 were monitored with digital air leak detection devices. The Mann-Whitney U test was used to compare chest tube duration and hospital length of stay between patients with digital devices and 259 patients who had traditional analog air leak detection devices (historical data from the departmental database over the previous 2 years).


Median chest tube duration and hospital stay were 1 day less in patients with digital devices than in those with traditional analog devices (P = .01 and P = .004, respectively), with a cost savings of $2659 per hospital day. Reductions in chest tube duration and length of stay aided in the development of a chest tube management algorithm.


Critical care nurses are valued team members who treat patients after lung resections. Digital air leak detection devices can help them assess air leaks more accurately, benefiting the patients in their care.

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