One hundred patients who were in extremis and required Emergency Room Thoracotomy (ERT) after sustaining penetrating thoracic injuries were analyzed to compare the results of attempted stabilization in the field (n = 51) with those who had immediate transportation (n = 49). The clinical status of the patients in the field and in the E.R. was quantified by Trauma Score (TS) as well as Physiologic Index (PI), ranging in severity from 20 (clinically dead) to 5 (stable). The anatomic injury severity was expressed by Penetrating Trauma Index (PTI). Survival was analyzed according to the type of injuries: noncardiac and cardiac.
The overall survival was 10%. There was only one survivor with noncardiac injuries. Sixty-nine patients had cardiac penetration, 33 in Group I (stabilization) and 36 in Group II (immediate transport). Despite attempts at stabilization, none of the patients in Group I showed an improvement in clinical status from the scene to the emergency room. There were a higher number of patients arriving at the E.R. with signs of life in Group II compared to Group I. In Group II patients, survival was significantly improved overall (p = 0.01), in patients with signs of life on arrival at the hospital (p = 0.02) and in patients with isolated right ventricular wounds (p = 0.01) compared with Group I. The anatomic injury severity (PTI) as well as the mode of injury in the two groups was similar.
Our data indicate that there is a significant incidence of cardiac trauma in patients in extremis with penetrating thoracic injuries. In the urban setting when the trauma center is minutes away, immediate transportation without attempted stabilization in the field constitutes the optimal prehospital management for these moribund patients.
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