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Ann Emerg Med. 1982 Sep;11(9):504-17.

Emergency diagnosis, resuscitation, and treatment of acute penetrating cardiac trauma.


The controversy concerning the mode of resuscitation in acute penetrating cardiac trauma has been resolved in recent years. Most large centers are aggressive, and pericardiocentesis is used in life-threatening situations only as a temporary measure until thoracotomy can be performed. There are at least 32 publications which recommended emergency department thoracotomy for resuscitation of the critically injured heart. The physician should be alerted when patients arrive with penetrating chest and upper abdominal wounds. Cardiac injury must be ruled out as soon as possible, for minutes may mean the difference between successful resuscitation and irreversible myocardial damage. Most penetrating chest wounds are easily managed in the emergency department with fluid resuscitation and chest tube drainage. Patients who have an isolated penetrating cardiac injury will have the best prognosis; moribund patients who are suffering from extrathoracic injuries, especially CNS injuries, will have a dismal prognosis. The keys to successful resuscitation of the traumatized heart are a high index of suspicion, early recognition, and rapid intervention.

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