Nursing Care Plan For Tension Pneumothorax

Nursing Care Plan For Tension Pneumothorax


Tension pneumothorax is a critical medical emergency characterized by the accumulation of air in the pleural space, leading to increased intrathoracic pressure and subsequent compression of the lung. This condition poses a significant threat to respiratory function and can rapidly become life-threatening if not promptly identified and managed. A nursing care plan for tension pneumothorax is essential to guide healthcare professionals in the timely assessment, intervention, and ongoing care of individuals experiencing this emergency.

This care plan focuses on rapid and decisive actions to relieve the tension within the pleural space, restore normal lung function, and stabilize the patient’s condition. The urgency of tension pneumothorax necessitates a systematic approach that includes assessment, immediate intervention, ongoing monitoring, and collaboration with the healthcare team to optimize outcomes.

In this document, we outline the key components of the nursing care plan for tension pneumothorax, emphasizing the critical role of early recognition and intervention in mitigating the severity of this condition. By employing evidence-based practices and maintaining a vigilant and responsive approach, healthcare providers can contribute to the effective management of tension pneumothorax and improve the overall prognosis for affected individuals.

Nursing Assessment for Tension Pneumothorax:

Tension pneumothorax is a critical and life-threatening condition that demands rapid and accurate nursing assessment to guide prompt intervention. The assessment focuses on recognizing clinical signs and symptoms associated with increased intrathoracic pressure and compromised respiratory function. The following components are crucial in the nursing assessment for tension pneumothorax:

  1. Respiratory Assessment:
    • Monitor the patient’s respiratory rate, depth, and effort. Assess for signs of increased work of breathing, such as the use of accessory muscles, retractions, or paradoxical chest movement. Note any tachypnea and dyspnea.
  2. Breath Sounds:
    • Auscultate breath sounds bilaterally, paying close attention to any asymmetry. Decreased or absent breath sounds on the affected side may indicate the presence of a pneumothorax. Be attentive to hyperresonance on percussion, suggesting trapped air in the pleural space.
  3. Chest Examination:
    • Inspect the chest for asymmetry, noting any visible signs of respiratory distress such as cyanosis, pallor, or diaphoresis. Look for chest wall movement and assess for tracheal deviation, which may be a late sign of tension pneumothorax.
  4. Vital Signs:
    • Monitor vital signs closely, particularly focusing on tachycardia and hypotension, which can indicate cardiovascular compromise. Recognize that tension pneumothorax can rapidly lead to hemodynamic instability.
  5. Pain Assessment:
    • Inquire about chest pain or discomfort, especially on the affected side. Note the onset, duration, and intensity of pain. Evaluate if pain is exacerbated by breathing or certain movements.
  6. History and Mechanism of Injury:
    • Obtain a comprehensive history, including information about recent trauma, surgery, or medical procedures involving the chest. Identify any risk factors, such as a history of lung disease or pre-existing pneumothorax.
  7. Oxygen Saturation:
    • Monitor oxygen saturation levels through continuous pulse oximetry. Note any significant decrease in oxygen saturation, which may indicate impaired gas exchange due to the pneumothorax.
  8. Clinical Signs of Distress:
    • Assess for signs of respiratory distress, including restlessness, agitation, confusion, or a sense of impending doom. These may be indicative of severe hypoxia and compromised respiratory function.
  9. Chest X-ray (if available):
    • While not an immediate bedside assessment, obtaining a chest X-ray is crucial for confirming the diagnosis. However, clinical judgment and immediate intervention should not be delayed awaiting imaging confirmation.
  10. Response to Interventions:
    • If interventions, such as needle decompression or chest tube insertion, are initiated, assess the patient’s response. Monitor for improvements in respiratory distress, breath sounds, and vital signs.

Prompt recognition and assessment of tension pneumothorax are vital for initiating immediate life-saving interventions. Early intervention, often involving needle decompression followed by chest tube insertion, is essential in relieving the tension within the pleural space and restoring normal respiratory function. Regular reassessment and ongoing monitoring are critical components of the nursing care plan for tension pneumothorax, ensuring a timely and effective response to this medical emergency.

Nursing Diagnoses for Tension Pneumothorax:

  1. Impaired Gas Exchange related to alveolar hypoventilation secondary to tension pneumothorax as evidenced by decreased oxygen saturation, tachypnea, and respiratory distress.
    • Tension pneumothorax disrupts normal gas exchange, leading to inadequate oxygenation. Nursing interventions focus on restoring lung function and oxygenation through rapid decompression and respiratory support.
  2. Ineffective Breathing Pattern related to increased work of breathing, respiratory distress, and chest pain secondary to tension pneumothorax.
    • Tension pneumothorax causes respiratory distress and altered breathing patterns. Nursing interventions aim to relieve respiratory distress through immediate decompression, pain management, and support for effective breathing.
  3. Acute Pain related to chest wall stretching and irritation secondary to tension pneumothorax as evidenced by verbal reports of pain, guarding behaviors, and increased heart rate.
    • Tension pneumothorax can cause significant chest pain. Nursing interventions involve pain assessment, administration of analgesics, and strategies to promote pain relief and comfort.
  4. Decreased Cardiac Output related to compromised venous return and increased intrathoracic pressure secondary to tension pneumothorax.
    • Tension pneumothorax can lead to hemodynamic instability. Nursing interventions focus on decompression to restore venous return, monitoring hemodynamic parameters, and collaborating with the healthcare team for stabilization.
  5. Impaired Tissue Perfusion (Peripheral) related to decreased cardiac output and potential shock secondary to tension pneumothorax.
    • Tension pneumothorax can lead to decreased tissue perfusion. Nursing interventions involve close monitoring of peripheral perfusion, addressing contributing factors, and collaborating with the healthcare team to prevent shock.
  6. Anxiety related to the sudden onset of a life-threatening condition, respiratory distress, and uncertainty about the outcome.
    • Tension pneumothorax is a critical emergency, causing anxiety in the patient. Nursing interventions focus on providing emotional support, education, and reassurance to alleviate anxiety and enhance coping.
  7. Risk for Ineffective Peripheral Tissue Perfusion related to potential complications of tension pneumothorax, including shock, organ dysfunction, and inadequate oxygenation.
    • Tension pneumothorax poses a risk of systemic complications. Nursing interventions involve continuous monitoring for signs of inadequate tissue perfusion and collaborating with the healthcare team to prevent and address potential complications.
  8. Knowledge Deficit related to tension pneumothorax, its causes, and the importance of immediate intervention.
    • Patients may lack knowledge about tension pneumothorax and its urgency. Nursing interventions include education about the condition, signs and symptoms, and the critical need for immediate medical attention.

Nursing diagnoses for tension pneumothorax guide the development of a focused care plan to address the immediate life-threatening nature of this condition. Rapid intervention, collaboration with the healthcare team, and ongoing assessment are paramount to optimizing outcomes for individuals experiencing tension pneumothorax.

Nursing Interventions for Tension Pneumothorax:

  1. Immediate Decompression:
    • Initiate immediate needle decompression at the bedside using a large-bore needle (e.g., 14 to 16 gauge) inserted into the second intercostal space at the midclavicular line on the affected side. This aims to release trapped air, relieve tension, and restore normal lung expansion.
  2. Monitor Respiratory Status:
    • Continuously assess respiratory rate, depth, and effort. Monitor for signs of improvement in breath sounds and respiratory distress following needle decompression. Be prepared to repeat the procedure if necessary or proceed to chest tube insertion.
  3. Administer Oxygen Therapy:
    • Administer high-flow oxygen therapy via a non-rebreather mask to maximize oxygenation. Monitor oxygen saturation closely, aiming for levels above 94%. Adjust the oxygen flow rate as needed to maintain adequate oxygenation.
  4. Prepare for Chest Tube Insertion:
    • Collaborate with the healthcare team to prepare for chest tube insertion as the definitive treatment for tension pneumothorax. Ensure that all necessary equipment and supplies are readily available, and obtain informed consent from the patient.
  5. Assist with Chest Tube Insertion:
    • Assist the physician or advanced practice provider in the insertion of a chest tube. Ensure proper placement in the pleural space to allow continuous drainage of air and restoration of negative intrathoracic pressure.
  6. Monitor Hemodynamic Status:
    • Continuously monitor vital signs, paying close attention to heart rate and blood pressure. Assess for signs of hemodynamic compromise, such as hypotension, which may indicate tension pneumothorax-induced shock.
  7. Administer Analgesics:
    • Administer prescribed analgesics to address chest pain and discomfort associated with tension pneumothorax. Optimize pain relief to enhance patient comfort and facilitate effective respiratory efforts.
  8. Maintain Bedrest:
    • Encourage the patient to remain in a semi-Fowler’s position to promote optimal lung expansion and reduce respiratory effort. Minimize physical activity to decrease oxygen demand and prevent exacerbation of respiratory distress.
  9. Provide Emotional Support:
    • Offer emotional support to the patient and their family, recognizing the stressful nature of the situation. Reassure the patient about the ongoing interventions and their role in stabilizing the condition.
  10. Continuous Monitoring:
    • Implement continuous monitoring of the patient, including respiratory and cardiac status. Monitor for signs of recurrence of tension pneumothorax or complications such as respiratory failure.
  11. Educate the Patient:
    • Provide education to the patient and their family about tension pneumothorax, its causes, and the importance of seeking immediate medical attention. Emphasize the need for ongoing monitoring and follow-up care.
  12. Collaborate with the Healthcare Team:
    • Maintain open communication with the healthcare team, including physicians, respiratory therapists, and other specialists. Collaborate in ongoing assessments and interventions to optimize patient outcomes.
  13. Prepare for Surgical Intervention (if indicated):
    • In cases where tension pneumothorax is due to trauma or other underlying causes, collaborate with the healthcare team to prepare for surgical interventions, such as exploratory thoracotomy or video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS).

Nursing interventions for tension pneumothorax are aimed at immediate decompression, respiratory support, pain management, and ongoing monitoring. Rapid and coordinated efforts with the healthcare team are crucial to address the life-threatening nature of tension pneumothorax and optimize outcomes for the patient.


In conclusion, the nursing care plan for tension pneumothorax is a critical and dynamic framework designed to address the immediate life-threatening nature of this emergency condition. Tension pneumothorax demands swift recognition, decisive intervention, and ongoing monitoring to optimize outcomes and prevent further complications.

The care plan begins with rapid assessment and the initiation of immediate decompression through needle insertion, a crucial step in relieving tension and restoring respiratory function. The focus then shifts to continuous monitoring of respiratory and hemodynamic status, ensuring the effectiveness of interventions, and promptly addressing any signs of recurrence.

Collaboration with the healthcare team is paramount, especially in preparing for and assisting with chest tube insertion, the definitive treatment for tension pneumothorax. Providing emotional support to patients and their families is an integral component of the care plan, recognizing the anxiety and stress associated with this life-threatening situation.

Ongoing education for both patients and healthcare providers is emphasized, highlighting the importance of recognizing symptoms, seeking prompt medical attention, and understanding the implications of tension pneumothorax. This knowledge empowers individuals to actively participate in their care and contributes to a collaborative approach between healthcare professionals and those they serve.

The conclusion of the care plan underscores the need for continuous vigilance, responsiveness, and adaptability. As tension pneumothorax is a dynamic condition with the potential for rapid deterioration, ongoing assessment and readiness to intervene are crucial. By adhering to evidence-based practices and maintaining a patient-centered approach, healthcare providers contribute to the successful management of tension pneumothorax, optimizing outcomes and supporting the patient on their path to recovery.


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