The epidemiology of traumatic hemothorax in a level I trauma center: Case for early video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery

Jana B. MacLeod, Jeffrey S. Ustin, Joseph T. Kim, Fran Lewis, Grace S. Rozycki, David V. Feliciano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Objective: Hemothorax is a common sequela of chest trauma. Complications after chest trauma include retained hemothorax and empyema requiring multiple interventions. We studied the epidemiology of hemothorax and its complications at a level I trauma center. Methods: The trauma registry was reviewed from Jan 1995 toMay 2005. Allpatients ≥16 years of agewhowere admitted with hemothorax, an AIS chest score of ≥ 3, and did not receive an immediate thoracotomy were entered in the study cohort. The patient demographics, details of the injury event, treatments, hospital length of stay (LOS), complications and outcome were analyzed. Results: The study cohort of 522 patients with a hemothorax were treated with 685 chest thoracostomy tubes. Overall, the median ISS was 18 and 62% were penetrating injuries. 109 patients (21%) had a retained hemothorax and required placement of ≥ 2 chest tubes with a median LOS of 15 days longer than patients with no retained hemothorax (p < 0.0001). The overall complication rate was 5% (26/522). Of these, 20 patients had empyema (38%), 8 patients required decortication, and 6 patients received streptokinase treatment. Conclusion: More than 1 out of every 5 patients undergoing intervention for trauma-induced hemothorax develops a complication. The development of retained hemothorax is associated with empyema in 15.6% of cases and a 2-week median increase in length of stay. Future research into interventions such as Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) on the day of admission to completely evacuate hemothorax is warranted to reduce complication rates, length of stay and cost.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)240-246
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Trauma and Emergency Surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Chest trauma
  • Epidemiology
  • Patient outcomes
  • Thoracic trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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