Self-inflating bag-valve devices are commonly used for the ventilation of intubated patients, especially during resuscitation and transport. These devices are generally safe, but minor deviations in their recommended use can expose patients to airway pressures greater than 135 cm H2 O. We present a patient in whom a sudden tension pneumothorax developed during ventilation with a bag-valve device. We believe that this complication resulted from high airway pressures generated in the bag-valve device. The ability of the device in question to cause barotrauma was confirmed by bench-top measurements of the peak airway pressures generated by minor deviations from proper use of the device.
From the Department of Emergency Medicine (D.C.L., R.M.M.) and the Department of Surgery (C.B.R.), Medical College of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and the Department of Emergency Medicine, George Washington University, Washington, District of Columbia (R.S.).
Address for reprints: Robert M. McNamara, MD, Department of Emergency Medicine, Medical College of Pennsylvania Hospital, 3300 Henry Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19129.