Successful roadside resuscitative thoracotomy: case report and literature review

J Trauma. 1994 Jan;36(1):131-4.


Patients with injuries severe enough to require cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) have a dismal prognosis. Time to surgical intervention is a major determinant of outcome in moribund trauma patients who have a potential for survival. With the exception of endotracheal intubation during evacuation to surgical intervention, no other usual prehospital procedures have been validated to affect outcome in such cases of extremis. This is a report of a case in which resuscitative surgical techniques were extended successfully to the prehospital environment. The patient was a 30-year-old man in extremis after a stab wound to the left chest. Estimating a transport time of 15 minutes, a physician riding with the emergency medical service (EMS) crews elected to perform a resuscitative thoracotomy. Following digital aortic compression, the patient regained both blood pressure and consciousness by the time of arrival at the trauma center. A left lower lobectomy was then performed in the operating room. The patient recovered fully and was discharged home in 21 days, neurologically intact. Four years later, the patient was alive, healthy, and working. This report demonstrates the feasibility of prehospital thoracotomy and raises provocative issues regarding future intense surgical involvement in prehospital care.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Emergency Medical Services / methods*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Forecasting
  • General Surgery / education
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency
  • Male
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Pneumonectomy
  • Prognosis
  • Resuscitation / methods*
  • Survival Rate
  • Thoracic Injuries / mortality
  • Thoracic Injuries / surgery*
  • Thoracotomy / methods*
  • Time Factors
  • Workforce
  • Wounds, Stab / mortality
  • Wounds, Stab / surgery*