37 patients with blunt traumatic cardiac arrest underwent attempted resuscitation by a HEMS crew over a four year period. Chest decompression was performed in 18 cases (17 thoracostomy, one needle decompression). The procedure revealed evidence of chest injury in 10 cases (pneumothorax, haemothorax, massive air leak) and resulted in return of circulation and survival to hospital in four cases. All four cases died of associated major head injury, although one became a heart beating organ donor. Only half of the cases found to have pneumothorax demonstrated clinical signs of one prior to chest decompression.
The authors state: ‘Relying on clinical signs of the thorax alone will not identify all patients with these injuries, and our data support extending the practice into all patients with a suitable mechanism of injury together with external evidence of chest injury.’
Chest decompression during the resuscitation of patients in prehospital traumatic cardiac arrest
Emerg Med J. 2009 Oct;26(10):738-40
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