Traditionally chest tubes are set to −20 cm H2O wall suctioning until removal to facilitate drainage of blood, fluid, and air from the pleural or mediastinal space in patients after open heart surgery. However, no clear evidence supports using wall suction in these patients. Some studies in patients after pulmonary surgery indicate that using chest tubes with a water seal is safer, because this practice decreases duration of chest tube placement and eliminates air leaks.
To show that changing chest tubes to a water seal after 12 hours of wall suction (intervention) is a safe alternative to using chest tubes with wall suction until removal of the tubes (usual care) in patients after open heart surgery.
A before-and-after quality improvement design was used to evaluate the differences between the 2 chest tube management approaches in chest tube complications, output, and duration of placement.
A total of 48 patients received the intervention; 52 received usual care. The 2 groups (intervention vs usual care) did not differ significantly in complications (0 vs 2 events; P = .23), chest tube output (H1 = 0.001, P = .97), or duration of placement (median, 47 hours for both groups).
Changing chest tubes from wall suction to water seal after 12 hours of wall suction is a safe alternative to using wall suctioning until removal of the tubes.