The risk of iatrogenic pneumothorax after electromyography

Charles D. Kassardjian, Cullen M. O'Gorman, Eric J. Sorenson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Introduction: Pneumothorax is a potentially serious complication of electromyography (EMG). Data on the frequency of pneumothorax after EMG are lacking. The purpose of this study was to determine the frequency, timing, and risk factors for iatrogenic pneumothorax after EMG. Methods: Cases of pneumothorax after EMG were reviewed for clinical, electrophysiological, and radiological data. Results: Of 64,490 EMG studies, 7 patients had an association between the EMG and pneumothorax. All patients were symptomatic and presented within 24 hours of EMG. Sampling of serratus anterior and diaphragm was causative in 1 patient each. In 5 patients, multiple high-risk muscles were sampled. The highest frequency of pneumothorax was observed with examination of serratus anterior (0.445%) and diaphragm (0.149%). Conclusions: The frequency of symptomatic iatrogenic pneumothorax after EMG appears to be low, and examinations of serratus anterior and diaphragm carry the highest risk. Electromyographers should be aware of the risk of pneumothorax and should counsel patients accordingly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)518-521
Number of pages4
JournalMuscle and Nerve
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016


  • Complications
  • EMG
  • Patient safety
  • Pneumothorax
  • Quality improvement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Physiology (medical)


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