The details are presented of the first published case of a tension pneumothorax induced by an automatic compression-decompression (ACD) device during cardiac arrest. An elderly patient collapsed with back pain and, on arrival of the crew, was in pulseless electrical activity (PEA) arrest. He was promptly intubated and correct placement of the endotracheal tube was confirmed by noting equal air entry bilaterally and the ACD device applied. On the way to the hospital he was noted to have absent breath sounds on the left without any change in the position of the endotracheal tube. Needle decompression of the left chest caused a hiss of air but the patient remained in PEA. Intercostal drain insertion in the emergency department released a large quantity of air from his left chest but without any change in his condition. Post-mortem examination revealed a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm as the cause of death. Multiple left rib fractures and a left lung laceration secondary to the use of the ACD device were also noted, although the pathologist felt that the tension pneumothorax had not contributed to the patient’s death. It is recommended that a simple or tension pneumothorax should be considered when there is unilateral absence of breath sounds in addition to endobronchial intubation if an ACD device is being used.
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Competing interests: None.
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