Pneumothorax as a complication of breast augmentation

John M. Osborn, Thomas R Stevenson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Background: Pneumothorax is a recognized complication of breast augmentation which, until now, was thought to be rare. The authors hypothesize that it is more common than generally appreciated. Methods: A fax survey was sent to 363 members of the California Society of Plastic Surgeons in 2001, questioning their experience with this complication. Results: The survey response rate was 50 percent, revealing that one in three members of the California Society of Plastic Surgeons had at least one patient who experienced a pneumothorax, and one in 10 had experienced two or more complications of pneumothorax while performing breast augmentation. Sixty-two members reported a total of 83 separate pneumothoraces in their career. No local or hypodermic needle injections were used in 24 percent of these patients. Fifty-five percent of patients were hospitalized, with 71 percent of the cases paid for by insurance companies. Treatment consisted of observation and repeated chest radiograph in 33 percent, needle aspiration alone in 16 percent, and chest tube insertion in 47 percent. Conclusions: The cause is difficult to determine, but causes suspected by respondents included intraoperative laceration of the pleura (43 percent), needle puncture at the time of local injection (37 percent), ruptured pulmonary blebs during or after the procedure (16 percent), and high anesthetic ventilation pressures (3 percent). The authors believe the complication of pneumothorax is more common than generally appreciated and is not necessarily caused by negligence. The authors now include this complication in their consent form and recommend keeping an intracatheter, pigtail catheter, or Heimlich valve in surgical facilities for treatment of a possible tension pneumothorax.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1122-1126
Number of pages5
JournalPlastic and Reconstructive Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 15 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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