Current indications and results of VATS in the evaluation and management of hemodynamically stable thoracic injuries

A V Manlulu, T W Lee, K H Thung, R Wong, A P C Yim
European Journal of Cardio-thoracic Surgery 2004, 25 (6): 1048-53

OBJECTIVE: Thoracic injuries are among the most severe forms of trauma and also a leading cause of morbidity and mortality. Video Assisted Thoracic Surgery (VATS) has recently provided an alternative method to simultaneously diagnose and manage patients sustaining chest injuries. We analyze our experience with VATS in the setting of thoracic trauma detailing indications for exploration, procedures performed and results of surgery.

METHODS: A 6-year single institution review of patients undergoing VATS due to injuries sustained from both blunt and penetrating chest trauma at a Level I trauma center and university teaching hospital. Comparisons were made between groups of blunt and penetrating trauma as to Injury Severity Score (ISS), presence of extra-thoracic injuries, initial thoracostomy drainage and length of postoperative stay.

RESULTS: VATS was successfully performed in 19 consecutive patients without conversion to thoracotomy. Indications for exploration included acute hemorrhage, retained hemothorax, suspected diaphragmatic injuries (DI), suspected cardiac injury, intra-thoracic foreign body, persistent airleak and chronic empyema. Procedures performed consisted of evacuation of retained hemothorax, hemostasis of intra-thoracic bleeders, repair of DI, wedge lung resections and decortication. Mean postoperative length of stay was 5.86 days. There were no morbidities. One patient with severe intra-abdominal injuries expired on the first postoperative day.

CONCLUSION: In hemodynamically stable patients with thoracic injuries, VATS provides an accurate assessment of intra-thoracic organ injury and can be utilized to definitively and effectively manage injuries sustained as a result of blunt or penetrating thoracic trauma. VATS should be used with caution in patients sustaining severe and life threatening intra-abdominal injuries.

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