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The modified ‘Jo'burg’ technique for securing intercostal chest drains
  1. Daniel J Ablett1,2,
  2. L Navaratne1,2,
  3. D Chua3,
  4. C G Streets2,4 and
  5. N R M Tai1,2
  1. 1 Royal London Hospital, London, UK
  2. 2 Defence Medical Services, DMS Whittington, Lichfield, UK
  3. 3 Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland, Dublin, Ireland
  4. 4 Bristol Royal Infirmary, Bristol, UK
  1. Correspondence to Maj L Navaratne, Flat 174 Compass House, Smugglers Way, London SW18 1DJ, UK; lalin.navaratne{at}


Insertion of an intercostal chest drain (ICD) is a common intervention in the management of either blunt or penetrating thoracic trauma. It is frequently performed by junior medical personnel as an emergency procedure during the initial resuscitation period and often within a stressful environment. Approximately one-fifth of all ICD insertions are associated with complications. In a retrospective review of over 1000 ICD insertions, 7% of the complications observed were due to inadequate fixation, resulting in dislodgement. The risk of dislodgement is greatest during transit or transfer of a casualty. In a military setting, this may involve movement of a casualty in a non-permissive environment and includes transfer on and off rotary wing, fixed wing, road vehicle and maritime transport platforms as well as between stretchers and hospital beds. While ICD insertion follows a standard technique in accordance with the Advanced Trauma Life Support guidelines, the method of securing ICDs has not been standardised across the Defence Medical Services (DMS). The aim of this paper is to first propose a modified version of a tried and tested technique of securing ICDs with alternative steps described for medical staff unfamiliar with surgical knot tying by hand. Second, we present the results from a pilot validation study of this technique when introduced to candidates on a trauma surgical skills course. We describe and demonstrate a robust, easily teachable and reproducible technique for securing ICDs. We would advocate the use of this technique among both surgically and non-surgically trained medical personnel and suggest that this should become the standardised technique for securing ICDs across the DMS. This could be easily implemented by introducing this technique into the various military trauma courses, for example the Military Operational Surgical Training, Medical Emergency Response Team and Critical Care Air Support Team courses.

  • Intercostal chest drain
  • Jo'burg knot
  • Casualty transfer

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  • Contributors DJA: concept of study, performing the study, data collection, editing of manuscript. LN: data analysis, writing of manuscript. DC: performing the study, data collection, editing of manuscript. CGS and NRMT: editing of manuscript.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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