Resuscitative Thoracotomy for Multiple Gunshot Wounds With Cardiac Tamponade Despite Pericardial Window.
This report reviews the indications and complications of resuscitative thoracotomy in the trauma patient as seen with the clinical course of a 19-year-old male who experienced postoperative pericardial tamponade after a bilateral resuscitative thoracotomy with pericardiotomy. This patient presented to the hospital in critical condition with 31 gunshot wounds (GSWs) distributed over the chest, abdomen, and extremities. After undergoing an initially successful resuscitative thoracotomy, the patient continued to bleed into his chest at a greater rate than the chest tubes were able to adequately evacuate. Despite the presence of a large pericardial window, clotted blood led to cardiac tamponade. Subsequent bedside reopening of thoracotomy under conscious sedation (ketamine, fentanyl, and midazolam) was required to evacuate the clots and stabilize the patient. This case provides the opportunity to discuss several interesting points for managing the traumatized patient, including indications for resuscitative thoracotomy, use of conscious sedation for bedside major surgery, and complications of clamshell thoracotomy, and ethics of resource allocation.