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Emergency Medical Minute


May 25, 2018

Author: Dylan Luyten, MD

Educational Pearls:


  • Resuscitative thoracotomies are most commonly used for treatment of cardiac tamponade and to selectively perfuse the brain and heart in setting of hemorrhage control.
  • Resuscitative thoracotomies are indicated in patients with penetrating injuries who lose vitals in the ED or those who had vitals within the last 10 minutes.
  • Do not perform resuscitative thoracotomies on patients who have no signs of life on scene, asystole as their presenting rhythm, or no vitals  > 10 minutes.
  • Resuscitative thoracotomies are not indicated in patients with blunt trauma  unless vitals are present in ED.
  • Do not perform CPR on trauma patients.



Karmy-Jones R, Namias N, Coimbra R, et al. (2014).Western Trauma Association critical decisions in trauma: penetrating chest trauma. Journal of Trauma Acute Care Surgery. 77:994.

Seamon MJ, Shiroff AM, Franco M, et al. (2009) Emergency department thoracotomy for penetrating injuries of the heart and great vessels: an appraisal of 283 consecutive cases from two urban trauma centers. Journal of Trauma. 67:1250.