Background: Traumatic rupture of the thoracic aorta (TRA) in the pediatric population is uncommon. Management of TRA in general has evolved to include selective nonoperative and endovascular stent graft approaches, although operative repair remains the standard.
Methods: We conducted a retrospective chart review of patients younger than 16 years of age admitted to a single institution between March 1985 and February 2002.
Results: Of 160 patients admitted with TRA, 11 were younger than 16 (11.9 +/- 3.5) years of age. Concomitant injuries included closed head injury (5 patients) and acute lung injury (6 patients). All were started on beta-blockers when the diagnosis was suspected. Laparotomy was required in 3 patients and orthopedic procedures in 5 patients. Six underwent operative repair (two primary repairs), with no mortality. Cross-clamp time was 30.4 +/- 2.6 minutes. One patient (operated on without bypass) was partially paralyzed. Two patients were managed nonoperatively, 1 with an intimal arch injury, who on subsequent follow-up has demonstrated healing, and 1 who died of head injury. Three patients were managed by endovascular stent grafts, 2 who died of closed head injury and 1 who at 1-year follow-up has fully recovered. The endovascular stent grafts were placed through the femoral artery in 2 patients and through an iliac conduit in 1 patient. No patient died of rupture.
Conclusions: The approach to pediatric TRA should be identical to the adult, with early institution of beta-blockers. Depending on the clinical setting, a spectrum of options should be considered, including operation, non-operation, and endovascular stent graft, although the choice of the latter must be tempered by the lack of long-term follow-up data.