REBOA vs ED Thoracotomy: Which One Is Winning?

Many trauma centers are talking about REBOA (resuscitative endovascular balloon occlusion of the aorta), but only a few are actually doing it. And of those, only a handful are doing it regularly and closely studying how it’s working.

The RA Cowley Shock Trauma Center is one of those very few. They have integrated the preparation phase for REBOA (femoral art line insertion) into their initial resuscitation protocols. This allows them to actually perform the technique quickly in any patient who starts to go bad and meets criteria. This center has been using REBOA nearly exclusively since they began studying it  a few years ago. They have actually supplanted ED thoracotomy (EDT) with this technique, and are a leader in producing data and studies on its nuances.

They compared short term outcomes in patients suffering traumatic arrest undergoing REBOA  (2013-2015) to those in patients with EDT (2008-2013). This was a simple study, with easy to understand statistical analyses.

Here are the factoids:

  • 19 thoracotomies and 17 REBOA were performed during the study periods (this shows how uncommon these procedures are, even at a busy center)
  • Average ISS was about the same (31 vs 26). Median GCS was 3 in both groups.
  • Return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC) occurred in 7 EDT and 9 REBOA
  • 13 EDT and 9 REBOA patients survived long enough to get to the OR
  • Mean systolic BP after occlusion was higher after REBOA (80 vs 46 torr)
  • There was only one survivor of the 36, and they received REBOA. This patient actually discharged home. (!)

Bottom line: Shock Trauma is a very busy center, and as you can see, even their REBOA numbers are low. This is why it is so critically important that all REBOA patients be part of a study. We really need to know how well it works, who it works best in, and what the downsides are. In this study, ROSC and survival to OR were statistically identical, but blood pressure was higher with REBOA compared to cross-clamping. Survival was also the same (abysmal), with one excellent outcome in the REBOA group.

The authors believe that REBOA and EDT are equivalent in terms of the variables they looked at. But remember, there are many other factors we need to look at, including things like resource utilization and healthcare worker safety. I strongly urge every center that is performing or considering REBOA to join a multi-center trial and/or report the the REBOA registry to hasten our understanding of this procedure.

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Reference: Paradigm shift in hemorrhagic traumaic arrest: REBOA is at least as effective as resuscitative thoracotomy with aortic crossclamping. ACS Scientific Forum, trauma abstracts, 2016.

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