A Cross Country Collision
Department of Biological Sciences
This case study relates the story of “Hannah,” a 19-year-old runner struck by a deer during a cross country race. As a result of the collision, Hannah develops a pneumothorax that impairs her ability to breathe. Students follow her story as she is treated in the ER and readied for surgery. Students investigate how a pneumothorax disrupts the pressure gradients needed for pulmonary ventilation and causes the lung to collapse. They learn how a chest tube restores the pressure gradients, and consider the proper placement of a chest tube in light of thoracic anatomy. Finally, they address the differences between a simple pneumothorax and a tension pneumothorax, and why the latter can lead to a life-threatening drop in blood pressure. The case was written for a two-semester anatomy and physiology course taken by nursing, nutrition, athletic training, and other allied health majors in their first or second year. It could be adapted for use in a high school anatomy and physiology course, or an upper-level physiology or pathophysiology course.
- Define pneumothorax and recognize the basic signs on an X-ray.
- Explain how a pneumothorax alters pressure gradients essential to ventilation and leads to a collapsed lung.
- Describe how the use of a chest tube can restore the pressure gradients necessary for ventilation.
- Understand the proper placement of a chest tube in light of the anatomy of the thoracic cavity and wall.
- Understand the difference between a simple pneumothorax and a tension pneumothorax, and how the latter can lead to life-threatening hypotension.
KeywordsPneumothorax; pulmonary ventilation; respiratory system; thoracic; pressure gradient; intrapleural pressure; intrapulmonary pressure; collapsed lung; deer collision;
Educational LevelHigh school, Undergraduate lower division
Type / MethodsDirected, Discussion, Interrupted
Subject HeadingsAnatomy | Physiology |
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The following video(s) are recommended for use in association with this case study.
- Raw: Runner Hit By Deer During Race
A runner is hit by a deer during a men’s NCAA cross country race in 2016. Running time: 0:14 min. Produced by Associated Press, 2016.