Pneumothorax is common in very low birth weight (VLBW) infants. In our NICU, we noted an above average incidence of pneumothorax compared with similar NICUs based on Vermont Oxford Network benchmarking. The quality improvement project was designed to decrease the incidence of pneumothorax in VLBW infants in a tertiary care NICU.


The project was divided into 2 periods. During period 1, all VLBW infants were followed for 6 months for the presence of pneumothorax. A multidisciplinary team met regularly to review cases of pneumothorax and identify potential causes. High tidal volumes (VT) (>6 mL/kg) were noted around the time of occurrence of pneumothorax. Guidelines were developed for improved monitoring and rapid feedback of VT and peak inspiratory pressure between nursing staff and clinicians. During period 2, these guidelines were implemented and VLBW infants were again followed for 6 months. The incidence of pneumothorax was tracked. Run charts were used to monitor changes.


The incidence of pneumothorax in VLBW infants decreased from 10.4% to 2.6% after the intervention (P = .04). By using process control, a reduction in pneumothorax was achieved in period 2.


Increased vigilance and real-time monitoring of VT and peak inspiratory pressure decreased the incidence of pneumothorax in our population of VLBW infants. These interventions can be considered in other NICUs with an above-average risk adjusted incidence of pneumothorax in VLBW infants. Our data illustrate the benefits of comparative benchmarking and organized quality improve-ment in advancing patient care outcomes.

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