Diagnostic and therapeutic video assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) following chest trauma

A Abolhoda, D H Livingston, J S Donahoo, K Allen
European Journal of Cardio-thoracic Surgery 1997, 12 (3): 356-60

OBJECTIVE: Thoracic injury remains a major source of morbidity and mortality in urban trauma centers. With the advent and increasing expertise in video assisted thoracic surgery, this modality has become an attractive alternative in the management of patients with thoracic injury. This report will review our experience with video assisted thoracic surgery at a level I trauma center and attempt to further delineate the indications for and timing of thoracoscopy in thoracic trauma.

METHODS: We identified 16 patients who had undergone video assisted thoracic surgery following chest trauma between July 1991 and June 1994. There were 15 penetrating and one blunt trauma. All 16 patients were initially treated with tube thoracostomy. From 0-20 days post-injury, video assisted thoracic surgery was attempted with either diagnostic or therapeutic intentions.

RESULTS: Twelve of the 16 patients (75%) had successful thoracoscopy. Three patients had diaphragmatic injury excluded and nine patients had successful evacuation of clotted hemothoraces. Evacuation of clotted hemothorax up to 7 days post-injury was safe and easily accomplished. Four patients (25%) had unsuccessful thoracoscopy and were converted to standard thoracotomy; failure was attributed to either suboptimal single lung ventilation or severe pleural inflammatory reaction. The only death in the entire group occurred 10 days after a thoracotomy for retained hemothorax. The median post-operative hospital stay following successful video assisted thoracic surgery was 3.5 days.

CONCLUSIONS: Video assisted thoracic surgery can be utilized as an effective and safe method for the initial diagnostic evaluation and surgical management of stable patients with penetrating thoracic trauma.

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