Outcomes and indications for Emergency Thoracotomy after adoption of a more liberal policy in a western European level 1 Trauma Center: 8-years experience.
Background: The role of Emergency Thoracotomy (ET) in blunt trauma is still a matter of debate and in Europe only small studies have been published. We report our experience about ET both in penetrating and blunt trauma, discussing indications, outcomes and proposing an algorithm for patient selection. Materials and methods: We retrospectively analysed patients who underwent ET at Maggiore Hospital Trauma Center over two periods: from January 1st, 2010 to December 31st, 2012, and from January 1st, 2013 to May 31st, 2017. Demographic and clinical data, mechanism of injury, Injury Severity Score, site of injury, time of witnessed cardiac arrest, presence/absence of signs of life, length of stay, were considered, as well as survival rate and neurological outcome. Results: 27 ETs were performed; 21 after blunt trauma and six after penetrating trauma. Motor vehicle accident was the main mechanism of injury, followed by fall from height. The mean age was 40,5 years and the median Injury Severity Score was of 40. The most frequent injury was cardiac tamponade. The overall survival rate was 10% during the first period and 23.5% during the second period, after the adoption of a more liberal policy. No long term neurological sequelae were reported. Conclusions: The outcomes of ET in trauma patient, either after penetrating or blunt trauma, are poor but not negligible. To date, only small series of ET from European trauma centers have been published, although larger series are available from USA and South Africa. However, in selected patients, all efforts must be made for the patient's survival; the possibility of organ donation should be taken into consideration as well.