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Traumatic pneumothorax: updates in diagnosis and management in the emergency department.

Pneumothorax, or air in the pleural space, is common in trauma, and has been found in up to 50% of severe polytrauma patients with chest injury. Findings associated with pneumothorax include dyspnea, chest pain, tachypnea, and absent breath sounds on lung auscultation. Although pneumothorax is traditionally diagnosed on plain film and confirmed with CT, the advent of portable ultrasonography has provided a way to rapidly diagnose pneumothorax, with a higher sensitivity than plain film. Patients with traumatic pneumothorax are typically treated with needle decompression or tube thoracostomy. However, recent literature has found that many patients can be managed conservatively via observation, or with a smaller thoracostomy such as a percutaneous pigtail catheter rather than a larger chest tube.

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