Timing, Safety, and Efficacy of Thoracoscopic Evacuation of Undrained Post-Traumatic Hemothorax

Vassiliu, Pantelis; Velmahos, George C.; Toutouzas, Konstantinos G.
December 2001
American Surgeon;Dec2001, Vol. 67 Issue 12, p1165
Academic Journal
Residual post-traumatic hemothorax (RPTH) occurs in 3 to 8 per cent of patients with tube thoracostomy and may cause serious infectious complications. Surgical evacuation is recommended, and thoracoscopic evacuation (THEVA) tends to replace open thoracotomy for this purpose. The objective of this study is to evaluate the optimal timing, safety, and efficacy of THEVA. Over 5 years patients with tube thoracostomy for trauma who had unresolved opacities on plain chest radiograph were evaluated by CT. If the residual fluid volume was estimated to be more than 500 mL[sup 3] on CT the patients were offered THEVA. Unstable patients were excluded. A score ranging from one (easy) to three (difficult) was used to grade the difficulty of the operation according to the attending surgeon's perception. Of 1728 chest trauma patients 143 (8%) were evaluated by CT for persistent opacity on plain film, 31 (1.8%) were found to have RPTH, and 24 (1.4%) were eventually taken for THEVA at 3.5 +/- 2 days after admission. Low oxygen saturation (less than 94%) was found in 58 per cent of patients before THEVA but in only 25 per cent after THEVA (P = 0.02). The majority of chest tubes (75%) were removed within 4 days of the operation. Two patients required conversion to thoracotomy. THEVA done within 3 days of admission was associated with a lower operative difficulty score, shorter hospital stay, and a trend toward shorter intraoperative time compared with THEVA done after 3 days of admission. All patients had effective resolution of their radiographic opacities after THEVA. Three patients developed a complication (urinary tract infection, pneumonia, and persistent air leak). We conclude that patients with significant RPTH and without major physiologic compromise are appropriate candidates for THEVA. The procedure is safe, evacuates PRTH effectively, and improves the respiratory function of affected patients. Ideally it should be performed within 3 days of admission.


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