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Sudden Cardiac Arrest and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)

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  1. Introduction to sudden cardiac arrest and resuscitation
    4 Chapters
    1 Quiz
  2. Resuscitation physiology and mechanisms
    2 Chapters
  3. Causes of sudden cardiac arrest and death
    2 Chapters
  4. ECG atlas of ventricular tachyarrhythmias in cardiac arrest
    8 Chapters
  5. Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation
    10 Chapters
  6. Special Circumstances
    11 Chapters
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Pneumothorax is characterized by the presence of free air in the thoracic cavity. While this can occasionally be benign and manifest even in healthy individuals, a tension pneumothorax arises when the volume of air is substantial enough to compress the superior and inferior vena cava, impeding or halting venous return to the heart. In instances of tension pneumothorax, the accumulated pressure can shift the entire mediastinum, manifesting externally as a laryngeal displacement.

Etiologies of tension pneumothorax include:

  • Traumatic injuries (blunt force, lacerations, gunshot wounds)
  • Asthmatic episodes
  • Iatrogenic events (e.g., during central venous catheter insertion)
  • Underlying lung pathologies
  • In cases of benign pneumothorax, positive pressure ventilation can precipitate a tension pneumothorax, leading to circulatory collapse.

Diagnosis of a tension pneumothorax can be made via auscultation, where asymmetric lung sounds are noted, specifically with an absence of sounds on the affected side. Ultrasonography can reveal pneumothorax (highlighted by a lack of lung tissue) and its impact on cardiac function. Clinically, patients may present with:

  • Absent breath sounds on the affected side
  • Crepitus
  • Subcutaneous emphysema
  • Hypotension
  • Hypoxia
  • Mediastinal shift, with potential tracheal deviation to the opposite side
  • Distended jugular veins


  • Decompression using a venous cannula
    • Can be executed in a pre-hospital setting.
    • A large venous cannula, preferably ≥7 cm, should be utilized.
    • The cannula is inserted into the 4th or 5th intercostal space along the anterior axillary line.
  • Thoracostomy
    • This method is generally deemed safer than using a needle due to reduced risk of injury. Thoracostomy should be performed promptly following needle decompression.
    • Thoracostomy with drainage typically serves as a stabilizing intervention.


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