Liberal use of emergency center thoracotomy

Am J Surg. 1986 Dec;152(6):654-9. doi: 10.1016/0002-9610(86)90443-5.


Emergency center thoracotomy is a heroic technique of resuscitation and treatment which was revived in the 1960s to improve the survival of patients presenting with cardiac wounds. With excellent survival rates attained in such patients, the technique was extended to victims of trauma with other mechanisms and locations of injury. At present, the technique has a survival rate ranging from 3 to 20 percent; however, most recent series of unselected patients show a survival rate of 8 to 10 percent. In this series, there were no survivors when emergency center thoracotomy was utilized after a period of prehospital cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Patients with isolated stab wounds to the thorax, especially those with cardiac injuries, had the best survival rate of any subgroup in the series. If emergency center thoracotomy was utilized for patients with some vital signs on admission and with neck or truncal gunshot wounds, blunt trauma, or abdominal trauma, the survival rate decreased to 2 to 4 percent; however, the small but constant survival rate in all of these groups justifies its continued use.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Emergencies*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Records
  • Prognosis
  • Resuscitation
  • Thoracic Injuries / surgery*
  • Wounds, Penetrating / mortality
  • Wounds, Penetrating / surgery*