The role of thoracoscopy in the management of retained thoracic collections after trauma

B T Heniford, E H Carrillo, D A Spain, J L Sosa, R L Fulton, J D Richardson
Annals of Thoracic Surgery 1997, 63 (4): 940-3

BACKGROUND: Retained hemothorax and infected thoracic collections after trauma can be seen in up to 20% of patients initially treated with tube thoracostomy and have traditionally been treated nonoperatively, often with prolonged hospital stays.

METHODS: Twenty-five patients with retained thoracic collections were reviewed. They underwent 26 thoracoscopies to evacuate undrained blood with or without infection.

RESULTS: In 19 patients (76%), the collections were evacuated thoracoscopically. In 4 patients the procedure was converted to an open thoracotomy, and 2 patients required additional procedures to drain these collections. Failure of thoracoscopy correlated with the time between injury and operation and the type of collection, but not with the mechanism of injury. When thoracoscopy was performed in less than 7 days after admission, no cases of empyema were noted at operation.

CONCLUSIONS: Videothoracoscopy is an accurate, safe, and reliable operative therapy to evacuate retained thoracic collections. In 90% of the patients in whom the procedure was completed, good results were obtained, reducing hospital stay and possible complications. Videothoracoscopy should be the initial treatment in trauma patients with retained thoracic collections and should be used earlier and more frequently in these patients.

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