Article Abstract

Thoracic damage control surgery

Authors: Tamas F. Molnar


Thoracic damage control surgery (TDCS) is a decision making tool and derivate of the damage control concept (DCC), where physiological stabilization has a priority over anatomical reconstruction under the pressure of time. Intrathoracic haemorrhage control and pleural decompression are the two main immediate tasks of TDCS, while definitive procedures follow when the patient is stabilised in 24–48 hours. The focus of the thoracic surgeon is on the prevention of the haemorrhage induced coagulopathy, metabolic acidosis and hypothermy formed triad of death. Surgical haemorrhage control and pleural space decompression are to be performed. The individual patients benefit from TDCS procedures whose condition is too severe for a complex immediate reconstruction (polytrauma). Life threatening chest injuries in multiple/mass casualty scenarios in civilian and military environment alike are triaged and treated accordingly. Onset of acute mismatch between the resources (available hands, OP theaters, resources, hardware) and the needs (number and severity of chest trauma cases), a mindset shift should take place, where time and space the two main limiting factors. Airway obstruction, tension haemo/pneumothorax falls into the preventable death category. Chest drainage and emergency thoracotomy are the two main procedures offered by TDCS. An intervention structured organ/injury specific list of procedures is detailed. This is a mix of emergency surgery and cardiothoracic surgery, where less is more. TDSC is not the Holy Grail found to solve all complex thoracic trauma cases, but is a good tool to increase the chance for survival in challenging, and frequently quite hopeless situations.