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Heart Surg Forum. 2012 Feb;15(1):E46-8. doi: 10.1532/HSF98.20111071.

Thoracic compartment syndrome: a case report.

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  • 1Department of Cardiopulmonary Transplantation and the Center for Cardiac Support, Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital, Houston, Texas, USA.


Thoracic compartment syndrome has been observed after trauma and after mediastinal and cardiac procedures; however, an adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)-like presentation has not been described as a part of thoracic compartment syndrome. We describe the case of an obese patient who underwent coronary artery bypass (his third such procedure) and hiatal hernia reduction during the same operation, followed by transmyocardial laser revascularization and full chest closure the next day. The patient was hypoxic after chest closure. Two days later, his peak airway pressure increased, and his cardiac and urine outputs decreased. Chest radiography findings suggested ARDS without hemodynamic instability. After we reopened the sternal incisions, the patient's symptoms reversed. Although our patient initially appeared to have ARDS, we believe the organ-volume displacement that occurred during the lengthy dual operation produced a thoracic and abdominal compartment syndrome that responded to decompression of the chest.

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