The pediatric resuscitative thoracotomy during combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan – A retrospective cohort study

Steven G. Schauer*, Guyon J. Hill, Richard E. Connor, John S. Oh, Michael D. April

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background: Combat zone trauma poses a unique set of challenges and injury patterns not seen in the civilian setting. The role of the pediatric resuscitative thoracotomy in combat zones remains unclear given a paucity of data regarding procedure outcomes in this setting. We compare outcomes among children in traumatic arrest undergoing resuscitative thoracotomy versus cardiopulmonary (CPR) resuscitation only. Methods: We queried the Department of Defense Trauma Registry (DODTR) from 2007 to 2016 for all pediatric subjects that underwent a resuscitative thoracotomy or CPR in the prehospital or emergency department setting during operations in Iraq or Afghanistan. We removed CPR subjects with mechanisms of injury not matched in the thoracotomy cohort. Results: During the study period, there were 3439 pediatric encounters. We identified 13 subjects who underwent a resuscitative thoracotomy and 66 subjects who underwent CPR without thoracotomy with matching mechanisms of injury. When comparing the two cohorts those in the thoracotomy group had higher median thorax body region scores (median 3 versus 0, p =.001), but a trend towards higher rates of survival to discharge (31% versus 9%, p =.108). The youngest survivor in the thoracotomy cohort was less than 1 year old. Conclusions: We observed a trend towards higher survival among subjects that underwent a resuscitative thoracotomy survived to hospital discharge compared to subjects undergoing CPR without thoracotomy. The literature will benefit from further data to confirm an association between this procedure and a survival benefit among pediatric subjects in the resource limited setting. Furthermore, improvements in documentation will guide equipping and training providers expected to care for pediatric trauma patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)911-915
Number of pages5
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Cardiopulmonary
  • Combat
  • Pediatric
  • Resuscitation
  • Thoracotomy
  • Trauma


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