Tag Archives: thoracotomy

ED Thoracotomy Survey: Read The Answers! (Rest of the World)

Last time, I posted summary info for ED thoracotomy on US trauma centers. Here’s a rundown of the answers provided by international respondents. A few duplicates from the same hospitals have been merged into single answers for them. The total number of international centers for the tables below is now 43.

Level of trauma center (or equivalent)

Level I 22
Level II 8
Level III 6
No level 7

 

How many ED thoracotomies are performed per year at your hospital?

A few per year (<6) 30
About every month (6-15) 6
A couple of times a month (16-30)4 4
About every week (31-52) 2
Not specified 1

 

What type of trauma do you perform ED thoracotomy for?

Both blunt and penetrating 22
Penetrating 17
Blunt 4

 

Do you use a practice guideline for ED thoracotomy?

Yes 17
No 16
I’m not sure 10

 

Do you use REBOA in your ED?

No 32
Yes 9
I’m not sure 2

 

And now for the questions you’ve been waiting for!

Who could perform ED thoracotomy at your hospital? (n=149)

Surgeon 39
Emergency physician 25
Surgical resident / fellow 15
Emergency medicine resident 7
Intensivist 1
ED intern / medical officer 1
No one 1

 

Who usually performs ED thoracotomy at your hospital? (n=149)

Surgeon 32
Emergency physician 15
Surgical resident / fellow 9
Emergency medicine resident 1
Thoracic surgeon on call 1
Trauma team leader 1
Never done one 1

 

Take This Survey On ED Thoracotomy At Your Hospital

Hello all! I’d like to invite you to participate in a brief survey regarding ED thoracotomy at your hospital. I’m curious about who can and does perform the procedure. The survey is very short and should only take a minute or two to complete.

Please take a moment to participate by clicking here to take the survey. Although entering your center name is optional, I do require the city,  state/province, and country so I can eliminate duplicates.

The survey will officially close in 2 weeks, so please fill it in soon! I’ll publish the results in a post shortly afterwards.

Thanks!
Michael

Click here to take the survey

The Societal Cost of ED Thoracotomy

ED thoracotomy can be a dramatic, life-saving procedure. From the patient’s perspective, there is only an upside to performing it; without it there is 100% mortality. But to trauma professionals, there is considerable downside risk, including accidental injury, disease transmission and wasted resources. What is the societal risk/cost if ED thoracotomy is performed for weak indications?

The trauma group at Sunnybrook in Toronto looked at this question by retrospectively reviewing 121 patients who underwent the procedure over a 17 year period. They looked at appropriateness, resource use and the safety of the trauma professionals involved. They used the following criteria to determine appropriateness:

  • Blunt trauma with an ED arrival time < 5 minutes
  • Penetrating torso injury with an ED arrival time < 15 minutes with signs of life

Most of the patients were young men (avg age 30) with 78% penetrating injury and 22% blunt. About half (51%) underwent thoracotomy for inappropriate indications. The vast majority of inappropriate cases were for penetrating injuries with long transport times. Only 3 of the inappropriate thoracotomies were for blunt trauma, yet 24 of the “appropriate” procedures were done in the face of blunt trauma.

Resource use in the 63 inappropriate cases included 433 lab tests, 14 plain images and 9 CT scans (!!!?), 6 cases in the OR, 244 units of packed red cells and 41 units of plasma. Accidental needlestick injuries occurred in 6% of the inappropriate thoracotomies. None of the patients receiving inappropriate thoracotomy survived.

Bottom line: ED thoracotomy remains a very dangerous procedure. I’ve previously written about guidelines to determine which ones are appropriate (see link below). In this study, many of the procedures were performed on patients with blunt trauma. That means that the number of inappropriate thoracotomies would have been much higher if today’s standards had been applied. So use the guidelines and save your own health, safety and hospital resources. Is it really worth it if you know the patient will not survive?

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Reference: Societal costs of inappropriate emergency department thoracotomy. J Amer Col Surg 214(1):18-26, 2012.

Emergency Thoracotomy Video

I did get a lead on a decent video of an emergency thoracotomy that combines most of the principles I laid out last week. It shows a nicely done thoracotomy with exposure of the heart. Aortic crossclamping is not performed, but overall it’s pretty good. All narration is in Thai, so many of you may not be able to follow the conversations.

ED Thoracotomy Part 3: Clamping The Aorta

Finally, the chest is open and the tamponade has been relieved. But your patient has little volume. In order to conserve any circulating blood and pump it only to the heart and the head, it’s time to cross clamp the aorta. This task is best left to the surgeon, because it is not a simple matter.

First, you have to locate the aorta, ideally somewhere just above the diaphragm. Unfortunately, if the patient is hypovolemic it’s very difficult to distinguish the aorta from the esophagus, which lie right next to each other (see picture above). In order to make them feel different, insert a gastric tube through the mouth or nose.

Next, separate the aorta and esophagus. They are both covered by pleura. The structure nearest you without the tube in it will be the aorta. Sometimes it’s possible to use a finger to dissect through the pleura and around the aorta. However, the younger the patient, the tougher this tissue is. It may be necessary to incise the pleura with scissors while your assistant holds the lung anteriorly, our of the way.

Finally, once you can pass a finger completely around the aorta, use it to guide the placement of a gently curved DeBakey type clamp (see picture on the left). Squeeze it until it clicks once, and you are done! Now rapidly infuse warmed blood into the patient and run to the OR!

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