BACKGROUND:: Emergency thoracotomy (ET) is a life-saving procedure used to control hemorrhage and relieve cardiac tamponade. It has been in routine use at Ulleval University Hospital since 1987. Our objective was to see the outcome of patients subjected to ET in recent times.
METHODS:: One hundred and nine consecutive ET performed in our emergency department during a 6-year period were analyzed. Data were drawn from the hospital's trauma registry. Demographics, mechanism of injury, anatomic injuries, physiologic status, interventions, time lapse, and outcome 30 days after injury were registered prospectively.
RESULTS:: Ten of 27 patients with penetrating (37%) and 10 of 82 patients with blunt injuries (12%) survived, giving a total survival of 18%. Median (quartiles) for the following parameters were Injury Severity Score 38 (26-50), Revised Trauma Score 1.3 (0-3.9), Glasgow Coma Scale score 3 (3-6), and probability of survival 0.06 (0.001-0.22). Survivors from penetrating injuries had significantly lower Injury Severity Score (25 vs. 34, p = 0.003), higher Revised Trauma Score (3.92 vs. 0.00, p < 0.001), higher Glasgow Coma Scale score (8 vs. 3, p < 0.001), and higher probability of survival (0.74 vs. 0.01, p < 0.001) than nonsurvivors. Conversely, no such differences were found for patients with blunt injury. Multiple logistic regression analysis failed to reveal any predictors of survival.
CONCLUSION:: An overall survival of 18% suggests that ET is a life saving procedure. It is difficult to find good predictors of survival from logistic regression analysis. It should, for a trained trauma team, be a liberal attitude toward performing the procedure on the agonal patient.