Early outcomes of deliberate nonoperative management for blunt thoracic aortic injury in trauma

J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2010 Sep;140(3):598-605. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcvs.2010.02.056. Epub 2010 Jun 25.


Objective: Traumatic blunt aortic injury has traditionally been viewed as a surgical emergency, whereas nonoperative therapy has been reserved for nonsurgical candidates. This study reviews our experience with deliberate, nonoperative management for blunt thoracic aortic injury.

Methods: A retrospective chart review with selective longitudinal follow-up was conducted for patients with blunt aortic injury. Surveillance imaging with computed tomography angiography was performed. Nonoperative patients were then reviewed and analyzed for survival, evolution of aortic injury, and treatment failures.

Results: During the study period, 53 patients with an average age of 45 years (range, 18-80 years) were identified, with 28% presenting to the Stanford University School of Medicine emergency department and 72% transferred from outside hospitals. Of the 53 patients, 29 underwent planned, nonoperative management. Of the 29 nonoperative patients, in-hospital survival was 93% with no aortic deaths in the remaining patients. Survival was 97% at a median of 1.8 years (range, 0.9-7.2 years). One patient failed nonoperative management and underwent open repair. Serial imaging was performed in all patients (average = 107 days; median, 31 days), with 21 patients having stable aortic injuries without progression and 5 patients having resolved aortic injuries.

Conclusions: This experience suggests that deliberate, nonoperative management of carefully selected patients with traumatic blunt aortic injury may be a reasonable alternative in the polytrauma patient; however, serial imaging and long-term follow-up are necessary.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aorta, Thoracic / diagnostic imaging
  • Aorta, Thoracic / injuries*
  • Aorta, Thoracic / surgery
  • Aortography / methods
  • California
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Selection
  • Registries
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vascular Surgical Procedures
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / diagnostic imaging
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / mortality
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / surgery
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / therapy*
  • Young Adult