Pneumothorax, or a collapsed lung, is often a spontaneous issue with no apparent underlying cause. The collapse occurs when air leaks from the lung into the chest, causing the lung to deflate. As air builds up inside the chest, it is accompanied by stabbing pains and breathing difficulties as the lung struggles to re-inflate.
The standard medical response has been to re-inflate the lung by inserting a tube into the chest to drain the escaped air. However, this ‘interventional’ approach has now been challenged. A new treatment study led by Professor Simon Brown from the Centre for Clinical Research in Emergency Medicine (CCREM) at Royal Perth Hospital has received the 2021 Australian Clinical Trials Alliance (ACTA) Trial of the Year Award for setting a new gold standard in pneumothorax patient care.
The study showed that observation, not intervention, is associated with significantly improved patient outcomes.
Conducted across Australia, the study involved 316 patients across 39 hospitals. One hundred and fifty four patients received the standard treatment to drain the air out of the patient’s chest, while the remainder were provided pain relief and managed solely with observation. The study showed that a vast majority (85%) of the ‘hands off’ treatment group were on-par with the expectations of the standard treatment in terms of recovery timeframe. This group also experienced far fewer complications, a reduced risk of recurring lung collapse, and returned to work much earlier.
By treating a collapsed lung as a manageable temporary condition, pain and severe complications can be avoided, and hospital stays dramatically shortened. This ground-breaking study is expected to spark a re-evaluation of pneumothorax treatment on a global scale and contribute to the ever-evolving understanding of best practice.
RPH Research Foundation is proud to help fund the CCREM team.