UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Should an ED thoracotomy be performed in pediatrics?

Keywords: trauma arrest, ROSC, blunt, penetrating (PubMed Search)

Posted: 10/20/2023 by Jenny Guyther, MD (Updated: 2/26/2024)
Click here to contact Jenny Guyther, MD

12 pediatric and adult surgeons with pediatric trauma expertise reviewed the literature to form a consensus statement on the indications for ED thoracotomy (EDT) on patients younger than 19 years.  Eleven studies were included for a total of 319 children who underwent EDT.  142 patients had penetrating trauma while 177 sustained blunt trauma.  Survival in the penetrating group was 13.4% and 2.3% in the blunt group.  Many of these patients were 15 and older.  Based on the review of the literature, the group made recommendations:
 
1) In pediatric patients with signs of life (SOL) who present pulseless in the setting of penetrating trauma, EDT was conditionally recommended.
2) In pediatric patients without SOL who present pulseless in the setting of penetrating thoracic trauma EDT was conditionally NOT recommended.  
3)  In pediatric patients with SOL who present pulseless in the setting of penetrating abdominopelvic trauma EDT was conditionally recommended.  
4) In pediatric patients without SOL who present pulseless in the setting of penetrating abdominopelvic trauma EDT was conditionally NOT recommended.  
5) In pediatric patients with SOL who present pulseless in the setting of blunt trauma EDT was conditionally recommended AFTER emergency adjuncts which include ultrasound and thoracostomies.  
6)  In pediatric patients without SOL who present pulseless in the setting of blunt trauma EDT was NOT recommended.  
 
SOL included cardiac electrical activity, respiratory effort, pupillary response, pulses, blood pressure, or extremity movement.
 
Bottom line:  If the pediatric trauma patient presents pulseless, but with SOL, EDT can be considered.  However, evidence is still very limited, especially in children < 15 and these recommendations are conditional.

References

Selesner L, Yorkgitis B, Martin M, et al. Emergency department thoracotomy in children: A Pediatric Trauma Society, Western Trauma Association, and Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma systematic review and practice management guideline. J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2023;95(3):432-441. doi:10.1097/TA.0000000000003879