Debate exists with regard to the use of pump bypass, shunt bypass, or clamp/repair techniques in treating injuries to the descending thoracic aorta. The objective in using any of these techniques is to minimize the complications of paraplegia and renal failure, while achieving the lowest possible mortality. During an eighteen-year period, 45 patients were seen with acute blunt injury to the descending thoracic aorta. The shunt bypass method of repair was used in 1; pump bypass in 8; and clamp/repair in 23. There were desperate unsuccessful attempts to resuscitate and control hemorrhage in 13 patients, 1 of whom was placed on portable pump bypass. Thirty-two patients survived resuscitation and operation, and 26 were long-term survivors. Among surviving patients with permanent paraplegia, 2 underwent pump bypass and 1, the clamp/repair technique. Four other patients were seen with paraplegia or paresis and had reversal of the paralysis. The clamp/repair technique was used in these patients with clamp times ranging from 35 to 62 minutes (mean, 47.4 +/- 13.3 minutes). Renal failure did not occur in any patient, despite clamp times of up to 62 minutes (mean, 37.5 minutes). Excluding patients seen in a moribund condition, mortality most often was secondary to neurological or multisystem injury. Debate continues concerning intraoperative management of this highly lethal vascular injury. The data presented here support the historical composite experience that clamp/repair is a safe and efficacious technique that minimizes paraplegia and mortality.