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The resuscitation of patients with cardiopulmonary arrest from a penetrating injury of the heart requires emergency thoracotomy and control of hemorrhage. Suture control may be technically difficult in patients with large or multiple lacerations. Emergency cardiac suturing techniques expose the surgeon to the risk of a contaminated needle stick. After we determined that rapid control of hemorrhage from cardiac lacerations could be achieved in anesthetized sheep with the use of a standard skin stapler, the technique was applied in the clinical setting. Twenty-eight patients underwent emergency stapling of 33 cardiac lacerations at our institution from September 1987 to December 1991. Seventy-nine percent (22) of the patients sustained stab wounds, and 21% (6) were injured by gunshots. Fifty-eight percent (19) of the injuries involved the right ventricle, 27% (9) involved the left ventricle, 9% (3) involved the right atrium, and 6% (2) involved the left atrium. In 93% (26) of the patients, control of hemorrhage was achieved within 2 minutes of exposure of the injuries. Both patients in whom control could not be achieved had sustained large-caliber gunshot injuries. Fifteen (54%) of the patients survived, including one patient with two cardiac lacerations and another with three lacerations. Of the surviving patients, two had mild neurologic deficits. No personal contamination occurred related to the use of the stapler. We conclude (1) cardiac stapling is highly effective in the management of hemorrhage from penetrating injury, particularly in the setting of multiple cardiac lacerations; (2) the technique may not be effective with certain types of gunshot wounds; and (3) the use of the stapler for emergency cardiorrhaphy eliminates the risk of personal contamination from a needle stick.