NCBI ROFL: Which brand of ball point pen is best for an emergency airway puncture?

By ncbi rofl | March 19, 2012 7:00 pm

Airflow efficacy of ballpoint pen tubes: a consideration for use in bystander cricothyrotomy.

“OBJECTIVE:To examine the suitability of commonly available ballpoint pens as a substitute emergency tracheostomy tube. METHODS: Commonly available ballpoint pens were examined and compared against two standard cricothyroidotomy sets. The pens were evaluated for dimensions, speed of construction of a temporary tracheostomy tube and airway resistance with differing flow rates. RESULTS: Internal diameters of the pens varied considerably. Time taken to construct a temporary tube ranged from 3 to 170 s, and in the majority of pens the airway resistance increased dramatically as the airflow rate increased. CONCLUSION: Contrary to popular belief, the majority of ballpoint pens appear unsuitable for use as a substitute tracheostomy tube. In this study only two pens fulfilled the criteria for use: the Baron retractable ballpoint and the BIC soft feel Jumbo.”

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  • H Davis79

    Can’t wait to try this out!

  • David Palmer

    I’ve noticed that the types of TV shows that used to have ballpoint pen tracheotomies have now switched to the protagonist putting in a chest tube to treat pneumothorax.  I presume the same pens are useful for both purposes.

    Were too many people getting stabbed in the throat by amateur surgeons who should have been doing the Heimlich maneuver instead?

    At least it’s better than a lamp-cord defibrillation.

  • David William

    Every time I’ve had to do an emergency tracheotomy, it worked just fine. I’ve even used a straw once.

  • Over the River

    The US Military Skilcraft Retractable Pen is specifically designed to be used for an emergency tracheotomy:

    The following are only some of the specifications:

    It measures 150 nautical miles from end to end on flight maps.
    The metal tip is exactly the regulation length female service members are allowed to grow their nails.
    The pen is made to fit into any military uniform pocket without being seen.
    Military branches train troops to use the bottom portion of the barrel as an emergency tracheotomy tube.
    Military members have said that the bottom of the barrel also is the exact length of a two-minute fuse.
    It must be able to write for one linear mileIt must be able to write in extreme hot or cold temperatures


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NCBI ROFL is the brainchild of two Molecular and Cell Biology graduate students at UC Berkeley and features real research articles from the PubMed database (which is housed by the National Center for Biotechnology information, aka NCBI) that they find amusing (ROFL is a commonly-used internet acronym for "rolling on the floor, laughing"). Follow us on twitter: @ncbirofl


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