Reevaluation of early evacuation of clotted hemothorax

Am J Surg. 1984 Dec;148(6):786-90. doi: 10.1016/0002-9610(84)90438-0.


During an 181/2 year period, we encountered 14,300 patients with blunt or penetrating thoracic or thoracicoabdominal trauma. In 155 patients, residual clotted hemothorax or empyema developed later. Thirty-nine patients underwent early evacuation of clotted hemothorax with no mortality and an average hospital stay of only 10 days. When progression to empyema occurred, the mortality rate increased to 9.4 percent and the average hospital stay to 37.9 days. The most common related event in the development of empyema was concurrent injury to intraabdominal organs and the inevitable bacterial contamination of the thorax. In a small number of patients, tube thoracostomy drainage is inadequate and results in residual clotted hemothorax. Despite recent pleas for conservative, expectant management, it is our experience that early evacuation of clotted hemothorax is not only cost-effective, it is also associated with lower morbidity, lower mortality, and reduces the chance of development of empyema.

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Injuries / surgery
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bacterial Infections / etiology
  • Drainage
  • Empyema / etiology
  • Empyema / mortality
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Hemothorax / mortality
  • Hemothorax / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pneumothorax / mortality
  • Pneumothorax / surgery
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Thoracic Injuries / surgery
  • Thrombosis
  • Time Factors
  • Wounds, Gunshot / surgery
  • Wounds, Stab / surgery