Emergency Bay Thoracotomy

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In recent years, there has been increased debate on the indications for and value of thoracotomies done in the Emergency Department for victims of trauma. The current literature, unfortunately, does not resolve many points of contention surrounding this procedure. Using strict terms to define Emergency Bay Thoracotomy (EBT), 89 consecutive patients seen over a 2-year period in a Trauma Unit were retrospectively reviewed and analyzed. Eighty-five per cent of the patients had no vital signs on arrival, yet the procedure proved to be valuable in sustaining life in 17% of patients, two thirds of whom were discharged, 90% with normal findings. A progressive increase in survival rate was observed with increased use of the procedure. A review of the prognostic factors found in this study and comparison with other published studies indicates that clear definition of the patient population and patient status is essential before aggregated data are used as a basis for therapeutic policies. Educational and research efforts must focus on determining which patients have zero prognosis after initiating resuscitation, rather than on denying care to any group, even when only a few will respond.

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