Penetrating thoracic vascular injuries

Surg Clin North Am. 1996 Aug;76(4):749-61. doi: 10.1016/s0039-6109(05)70478-3.


1. Known injuries to the ascending aorta and arch are exposed by median sternotomy. Known injuries to the descending thoracic aorta can be exposed through a posterolateral thoracotomy. These injuries are more commonly diagnosed through emergent exploration by means of anterolateral thoracotomies. 2. Preoperative arteriography is extremely useful in managing penetrating injuries to the thoracic outlet, as it allows the choice of appropriate incisions for exposure and control. 3. Innominate artery, right common carotid or subclavian artery, as well as left intrathoracic common carotid artery injuries are best managed via median sternotomy with appropriate extension. 4. Left subclavian arteries are managed with high left anterolateral thoracotomy for proximal control combined with supraclavicular incision. 5. Distal subclavian arteries are managed with proximal control by a supraclavicular incision and distal control by an infraclavicular incision. 6. The bypass principle is useful for managing innominate or left carotid artery injuries. Ligation with brachiocephalic bypass can be a simple solution to a complex problem. 7. Soft grafts, fine sutures, and minimal mobilization are the techniques of choice. 8. Adjuncts such as Fogarty balloon catheters, Foley catheters, autotransfusion, shunts, and pulmonary tractotomy can be useful in managing these injuries. 9. Documentation of the preoperative neurovascular status of the patient should be performed, as well as discussion with the patient and the family, if available, of the potential outcome with appropriate documentation in the chart. 10. Rehabilitation services should be involved as appropriate to care for these patients. 11. Ligation is always an option to save the patient's life.

MeSH terms

  • Blood Vessel Prosthesis
  • Blood Vessels / injuries*
  • Brachiocephalic Trunk / injuries
  • Humans
  • Lung Injury
  • Thoracic Injuries / surgery*
  • Wounds, Gunshot / surgery
  • Wounds, Penetrating / surgery*