What is Chest Tube Placement?

Chest tube placement in dogs is a procedure that involves the temporary indwelling of a specially designed tube into the thoracic cavity. Veterinary professionals, specialists, and surgeons can use this procedure as an easy and effective way to evacuate the pleural space of a canine. Indications for a chest tube placement in dogs include persistent conditions requiring repeated tension pneumothorax, thoracentesis, and postoperative thoracotomy. A chest tube can be used to remove fluids or air from the patient’s thoracic cavity, monitor hemorrhaging, administer anesthetic drugs, or control air leakage. 

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Chest Tube Placement Procedure in Dogs

Prior to conducting the chest tube placement procedure, the canine will be anesthetized. The patient may require a thoracentesis for stabilization purposes during general anesthesia. Throughout the procedure, the veterinarian will use a sterile technique. 

  1. The dog will be placed into lateral recumbency.
  2. The thorax will be clipped and prepared aseptically. 
  3. The vet will count forward from the last rib to the appropriate rib space. 
  4. The typical skin incision will be made around the 8th to 10th intercostal space. 
  5. The tube will then be measured from the selected intercostal space, just caudal to the thoracic inlet and marked accordingly.
  6. Local anesthesia will be administered subcutaneously, Bupivacaine 1-2mg/kg is the common dosage. 
  7. The local anesthetic block will be injected at the point of skin injection, through the subcutaneous tunnel and down into the intercostal space where the tube will be placed. 
  8. The patient is then draped with a surgical cloth. 
  9. An incision will be made over the intercostal space into the subcutaneous tissue layer just slightly larger than the chest tube’s diameter. 
  10. The veterinarian will bluntly dissect through the subcutaneous and muscle layers of the thoracic wall. 
  11. The tube will then be pushed into the thorax and as soon as the tip of the tube is through the thoracic cavity, the tube is flattened and slid 2-3 cm cranially. 
  12. Once the tube is in place, it will be secured with a single interrupted suture. 
  13. After the tube is secured, the vet will radiograph the chest to make sure tube is positioned correctly. 
  14. The incision site will be covered with a non-adherent dressing to protect the area from infection and manipulation from the dog. 
  15. The canine will be returned to a recovery area with an Elizabethan collar placed around the neck to prevent self-manipulation of the site. 

Efficacy of Chest Tube Placement in Dogs

The procedure described above is a safe and effective way to perform chest tube placement in dogs. This technique involves very little soft tissue dissection, rather than blunt force as seen in other chest tube procedures, reducing the chance of iatrogenic damage upon placement. 

Chest Tube Placement Recovery in Dogs

Chest tube placement requires hospitalizing a dog for a time. The veterinary staff will need to constantly monitor the dog’s condition, however, minimal discomfort is expected. The incision site around the tube will need to be inspected daily for signs of infection, such as swelling, inflammation, and redness. The timing of chest tube removal depends on the underlying pathogenesis. The average time expectancy for tube placement is 12-24 hours. 

Cost of Chest Tube Placement in Dogs

Chest tube placement in dogs can cost a pet owner nearly $4,000 to have performed. The total cost of this procedure depends on fluids or air removed, as well as the canine’s overall condition. 

Dog Chest Tube Placement Considerations

Although uncommon, improper chest tube placement can result in damage to the vital intrathoracic structures such as the vessels, heart, or lungs.

Chest Tube Placement Prevention in Dogs

Chest tube placement in dogs is not a preventable procedure. Trauma often results if fluid or air buildup in the thoracic cavity, but the need for this procedure can be linked to numerous health conditions.