Objective: The purpose of this study is to present the rationale for an algorithm that describes the place of resuscitative thoracotomy in the prehospital management of a patient with penetrating chest injury, and to review a 6-year experience using this algorithm.
Methods: This study was a retrospective review of all cases where a prehospital thoracotomy was performed by the medical teams of the London Helicopter Emergency Medical Service.
Results: Thirty-nine prehospital thoracotomies were performed. Four (10%) patients survived, one with long-term disability. Factors associated with survival were stab wound, single cardiac wound, cardiac tamponade, and loss of pulse in the presence of an experienced prehospital doctor.
Conclusion: Current evidence suggests that patients who suffer a cardiac arrest more than 10 minutes away from emergency room thoracotomy are very unlikely to survive. Prehospital thoracotomy is associated with a small number of survivors. This intervention should be considered if there is an appropriately experienced, trained, and equipped doctor present, who is acting within a trauma system with ongoing training and quality assurance.