NHS England
Printable version

Deterioration due to rapid offload of pleural effusion fluid from chest drains

A joint National Patient Safety Alert has been issued by the NHS England and NHS Improvement National Patient Safety Team, British Thoracic Society (BTS) and Association of Respiratory Nurse Specialists (ARNS), on the risk of deterioration due to rapid offload of pleural effusion fluid from chest drains.

About this alert

Pleural effusions are the accumulation of fluid between the lung and chest wall, which may cause breathlessness, low oxygen saturation and can lead to collapsed lung(s). Large effusions, such as those caused by pleural malignancy, may require insertion of a chest drain and controlled drainage of fluid to allow the lung to inflate.

If large volumes of pleural fluid are drained too quickly, patients can rapidly deteriorate. Their blood pressure drops, and they can become increasingly breathless from the potentially life-threatening complication of re-expansion pulmonary oedema. The rate at which fluid is drained must be controlled in order to prevent cardiovascular instability and collapse.

The alert asks providers to review local chest drain clinical procedures to ensure they follow BTS and ARNS guidelines and standards; and to ensure clear instruction on frequency of observation, red flag triggers and local escalation procedures for patient deterioration are available to staff at the patient’s bedside.

About National Patient Safety Alerts

This alert has been issued as a National Patient Safety Alert.

The NHS England and NHS Improvement patient safety team was the first national body to have been accredited to issue National Patient Safety Alerts by the National Patient Safety Alerting Committee (NaPSAC). All National Patient Safety Alerts are required to meet NaPSAC’s thresholds and standards. These thresholds and standards include working with patients, frontline staff and experts to ensure alerts provide clear, effective actions for safety-critical issues.

NaPSAC requires providers to introduce new systems for planning and coordinating the actions required by any National Patient Safety Alert across their organisation, with executive oversight.

Failure to take the actions required under any National Patient Safety Alert may lead to CQC taking regulatory action.

Patient safety alerts are shared rapidly with healthcare providers via the Central Alerting System (CAS).

Related content


Channel website: https://www.england.nhs.uk/

Original article link: https://www.england.nhs.uk/2020/12/deterioration-due-to-rapid-offload-of-pleural-effusion-fluid-from-chest-drains/

Share this article

Latest News from
NHS England