Thoracic Aorta Injuries: Management and Outcome of 144 Patients

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Rupture of the thoracic aorta from blunt injury is often lethal. Methods of operative repair vary, based on the surgeon's preference and circumstances. The primary hypothesis of this study was that operative management choices would correlate with outcome. Data on demographics, injury mechanism, initial evaluation, diagnostic procedures, operative treatment, and outcome were obtained from chart review at the state's eight trauma centers. Rates of paraplegia and survival were compared for different methods of operative repair. Of 63,507 hospitalized trauma patients, 144 patients sustained thoracic aortic injury (incidence = 0.23%). Sixty-four died (44.1%), most of whom died in the emergency department (26) or the operating room (12). Eighty-six patients had complete operative data for analysis, including cross-clamp time and method of repair. No patient in the group with a cross-clamp time of less than 35 minutes developed paraplegia (p = 0.02). For the patients with longer cross-clamp times, 6 of 14 patients (42.9%) undergoing clamp and sew repair developed paraplegia, as compared to 2 of 37 patients (5.4%) repaired on bypass (p = 0.005). This study suggests that the rate of paraplegia after repair of thoracic aortic injury can be minimized with short cross-clamp times or the use of bypass when long cross-clamp times can be anticipated.

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