The natural history and optimal management of retained hemothorax
(RH) after chest tube placement is unknown. The intent of our study was to determine practice patterns used and identify independent predictors of the need for thoracotomy
An American Association for the Surgery of Trauma
multicenter prospective observational trial was conducted, enrolling patients with placement of chest tube within 24 hours of trauma
admission and RH on subsequent computed tomography of the chest. Demographics, interventions, and outcomes were analyzed. Logistic regression analysis was used to identify the independent predictors of successful intervention for each of the management choices chosen and complications.
RH was identified in 328 patients from 20 centers. Video-assisted thoracoscopy (VATS) was the most commonly used initial procedure in 33.5%, but 26.5% required two and 5.4% required three procedures to clear RH or subsequent empyema
was ultimately required in 20.4%. The strongest independent predictor of successful observation was estimated volume of RH ≤300 cc (odds ratio [OR], 3.7 [2.0–7.0]; p
< 0.001). Independent predictors of successful VATS as definitive treatment were absence of an associated diaphragm injury (OR, 4.7 [1.6–13.7]; p
= 0.005), use of periprocedural antibiotics for thoracostomy
placement (OR, 3.3 [1.2–9.0]; p
= 0.023), and volume of RH ≤900 cc (OR, 3.9 [1.4–13.2]; p
= 0.03). No relationship between timing of VATS and success rate was identified. Independent predictors of the need for thoracotomy
included diaphragm injury (OR, 4.9 [2.4–9.9]; p
< 0.001), RH >900 cc (OR, 3.2 [1.4–7.5]; p
= 0.007), and failure to give periprocedural antibiotics for initial chest tube placement (OR 2.3 [1.2–4.6]; p
= 0.015). The overall empyema
and pneumonia rates for RH patients were 26.8% and 19.5%, respectively.
RH in trauma
is associated with high rates of empyema
and pneumonia. VATS can be performed with high success rates, although optimal timing is unknown. Approximately, 25% of patients require at least two procedures to effectively clear RH or subsequent pleural space infections and 20.4% require thoracotomy
Level of Evidence:
II, prospective comparative study.