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Flashback Friday: Which brand of ball point pen is best for an emergency airway puncture?

Seriously, Science?
By Seriously Science
May 30, 2014 7:35 PMNov 20, 2019 4:34 AM


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Photo: flickr/stacyinbody

You've probably watched at least one dramatic television scene involving a doctor using a ballpoint pen to perform an emergency airway puncture (if not, here is a particularly awesome one from a Korean doctor drama). So, if you are ever in that particular situation, you know what to do. But what if there is a range of ballpoint pens to choose from... which will you choose?!? Instead of standing there with analysis paralysis, read this:

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.” Related content: Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: A novel method for the removal of ear cerumen. Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: The novel use of wooden spoons for control of massive intra-abdominal hemorrhage. Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: Manipulation of fractured nose using mallet and champagne cork. Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: Penises point to pelvic phractures (or, A new use for your favorite tool)!

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