Original Publication
Open Access

Pharmacology Simulation Scenario: Tension Pneumothorax

Published: September 13, 2010 | 10.15766/mep_2374-8265.7966

Included in this publication:

  • Pneumo.pdf

To view all publication components, extract (i.e., unzip) them from the downloaded .zip file.

Editor's Note: This publication predates our implementation of the Educational Summary Report in 2016 and thus displays a different format than newer publications.


This resource is a manikin-based simulation case involving a 55-year-old motorcycle rider who was involved in a high-speed collision. He is brought to the emergency room complaining of left-sided chest pain. After a brief period of stabilization, his condition deteriorates as he develops a tension pneumothorax. He subsequently requires needle decompression followed by tube thoracostomy. This resource is one of three respiratory simulation cases developed as part of a second-year medical school pharmacology curriculum. These cases were developed to help medical students integrate basic science principles taught in traditional lectures with real-life clinical scenarios. In this scenario, the learner needs to rapidly assess a patient with a pneumothorax and know different types of local analgesia and their potential side effects in a trauma patient. Finally, the learner must be able to discuss the anatomy of chest tube insertion and then perform a needle decompression of a tension pneumothorax. This simulation scenario has been used by approximately 180 second-year medical students. The feedback we have received has been very favorable, with many of the students requesting that we incorporate more simulation exercises into the basic science curriculum.

Educational Objectives

By the end of this simulation, learners will be able to:

  1. Develop a plausible differential diagnosis from the history and physical examination findings for the scenario.
  2. Choose a treatment plan to resolve the patient-simulator’s condition.

Author Information

  • Jimmy Beck: Loma Linda University School of Medicine
  • Christie Romo, MD: Loma Linda School of Medicine
  • Kent Denmark, MD: Loma Linda School of Medicine

None to report.

None to report.


Beck J, Romo C, Denmark K. Pharmacology simulation scenario: tension pneumothorax. MedEdPORTAL. 2010;6:7966. https://doi.org/10.15766/mep_2374-8265.7966