Is distal aortic perfusion in traumatic thoracic aortic injuries necessary to avoid paraplegic postoperative outcomes?

Bryan A Whitson, Dilip S Nath, Joshua R Knudtson, Michael D McGonigal, Sara J Shumway
Journal of Trauma 2008, 64 (1): 115-20

OBJECTIVES: Traumatic thoracic aorta injuries account for nearly 8,000 deaths annually in the United States. Clamp-and-sew techniques can lead to high rates of paraplegia. Use of distal aortic perfusion can lead to heparin-related complications, particularly with associated head trauma. Our objective was to evaluate whether or not an individualized approach to operative management provides acceptable neurologic outcomes.

METHODS: A retrospective review (1991-2004) of patients with a traumatic thoracic aortic injury at a Level I trauma center was performed.

RESULTS: A total of 67 patients fit the study criteria. Ninety-one percent of patients had concomitant injuries. Median time from injury to evaluation was 38.0 minutes and from evaluation to operating room (OR) 111.0 minutes. Fifty-three percent of patients died before definitive repair could be undertaken; 29% were in the emergency department and 24% were in the OR. When definitive repair occurred, distal aortic perfusion was used in 81% of cases (75% left heart bypass, 6% cardiopulmonary bypass). The remaining 19% underwent clamp-and-sew technique without heparinization. There were no spinal cord deficits or adverse cerebral events related to repair. If definitive repair was completed, the mortality was 16%. Male sex and increasing time, both to evaluation and to OR, were the only risk factors associated with increased mortality.

CONCLUSIONS: Judicious use of clamp-and-sew techniques can achieve excellent neurologic outcomes, equivalent to distal aortic perfusion. Prompt evaluation leads to improved survival. Factors such as age, mechanism of injury, site of aortic injury, or operative technique did not affect mortality.

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