Publication Date


Journal Title



Objective The study aims to describe the clinical characteristics and outcomes of patients with COVID-19 related acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) who developed pneumothorax. Design and setting A retrospective chart review was performed of the electronic medical record. Patients were included if they were identified as having confirmed COVID-19 as well as pneumothorax from March 16, 2020 to May 31, 2020. Patients' demographic and clinical characteristics, mechanical ventilator parameters, lung compliance measurements and outcomes during hospitalization were collected. This case series was conducted in intensive care units at two large tertiary care centers within the Northwell Health System, located in New York State. Patients A total of 75 patients were identified who were predominantly male (73.3%) with an average age of 62.8 years. Thirty (40%) were Hispanic, 20 (26.7%) were White, 16 (21.3%) were Asian, and nine (12%) were Black. Common comorbid conditions were hypertension (52%), diabetes mellitus (26.7%), hyperlipidemia (32.0%), and chronic pulmonary disease (8, 10.7%). Measurements and main results Most of the patients were diagnosed with pneumothorax while on mechanical ventilation (92%) despite overall adherence with lung-protective ventilation strategies. Average tidal volume was 6.66 mL/kg) of ideal body weight. The average positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) was 10.83 (cm) H2O. Lung compliance was poor, with average peak and plateau pressures of 41.9 cm H2O and 35.2 cm H2O, respectively. Inpatient mortality was high in these patients (76%). Conservative management with initial observation had a success rate (73.3%) with similar mortality and shorter length of stay (LOS) on average. Significant factors in the conservatively managed group included lack of tension physiology, the smaller size of pneumothorax, lack of underlying diabetes, presence of pneumomediastinum, and not being on mechanical ventilation during diagnosis. Conclusion Despite overall adherence to best practice ventilator management in ARDS, we observed a large number of pneumothoraces during the COVID-19 pandemic. Conservative management may be appropriate if there are no clinical signs or symptoms of tension physiology and pneumothorax size is small.

Volume Number


Issue Number




Document Type



Faculty; Northwell Resident


School of Medicine; Northwell Health

Primary Department

Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine

Additional Departments

Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery; COVID-19 Publications





Included in

Pulmonology Commons