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Management of penetrating chest injuries with a positive pericardial window (PW) are presumed cardiac injuries and traditionally result in sternotomy. However, there is some evidence in the literature that select patients can be managed with PW, lavage, and drainage (PWLD). All patients with penetrating chest trauma who underwent PW and/or sternotomy over a 5-year period were identified. Patients were stratified by operative intervention [PW + sternotomy vs PWLD] and compared. Multivariable logistic regression (MLR) analysis was performed to determine independent predictors of therapeutic sternotomy. Of the 146 patients who underwent PW and/or sternotomy included in the study, 126 patients underwent PW, 39 underwent sternotomy, and 10 underwent PWLD. There was no difference in demographics, LOS, ICU LOS, vent days, or mortality in patients who underwent PW + sternotomy, compared to patients who underwent PWLD. In the PWLD group, one patient returned to the OR for recurrent pericardial effusion and no patients required sternotomy. Multivariable logistic regression identified ISS as an independent predictor of therapeutic sternotomy (OR 1.160; 95% CI 1.006-1.338, P = .0616). Interestingly, positive FAST, significant CT findings, and trajectory were not predictors of therapeutic sternotomy. There were 7 patients with a left hemothorax and negative FAST found to have a positive PW and cardiac injury mandating sternotomy and repair. Penetrating cardiac injury can be managed with PWLD in select patients. Positive FAST, significant findings on CT, and trajectory do not mandate sternotomy. A negative FAST in the setting of a hemothorax does not rule out a cardiac injury.


Brian R Czarkowski, Saskya E Byerly, Emily K Lenart, Andrew J Kerwin, Dina M Filiberto. Management of Penetrating Cardiac Injuries With Pericardial Window and Drainage in Select Patients. The American surgeon. 2023 Jul;89(7):3110-3113

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PMID: 37501310

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