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Circulation. 1991 Nov;84(5 Suppl):III40-6.

Traumatic rupture of the thoracic aorta. A 20-year review: 1969-1989.

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Vancouver General Hospital, Canada.


Acute traumatic injury of the thoracic aorta is a relatively common injury of deceleration accidents, usually high-speed motor vehicle accidents. The limiting factor to successful hospital management of these victims is early diagnosis and prompt treatment. Between the years 1969 and 1989, 116 patients (87 men and 29 women) were diagnosed with acute traumatic injury of the aorta. The mean age was 38.8 years, and the range was from 11 to 82 years. All patients who presented to the hospital emergency departments were included in the evaluation. The diagnosis of aortic rupture was firmly established by either aortography, surgery, or autopsy. The site of injury in 105 (90.5%) was the aortic isthmus, that is, distal to the origin of the left subclavian artery. In nine patients (7.7%) the injury was in the distal thoracic aorta. Two patients had injuries of the aortic arch. Associated injuries were present in 110 patients (95%); 16 patients (14%) had no external evidence of chest injury. Only 50 patients (43%) had the opportunity for definitive surgical management. The nonsurgical group comprised 66 patients (57%), and all of these died; the cause of death was unsuspected, suspected, or diagnosed after hospital admission from the emergency department. Of the surgical group, 36 patients (72%) survived, whereas 14 patients (28%) died. The surgical management comprised partial cardiopulmonary bypass in 31 patients that included seven deaths, simple aortic cross-clamping in 14 that included six deaths, and nonheparinized bypass in four that included one death. The incidence of paraplegia was 3.2% (one patient) with cardiopulmonary bypass, 28.5% (four patients) with simple aortic cross-clamping and none with nonheparinized bypass.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS).

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