Management of simple and retained hemothorax: A practice management guideline from the Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma

Document Type


Publication Date



Trauma & Acute Care Surgery

Journal Title

American journal of surgery

MeSH Headings

Chest Tubes; Drainage (methods, standards); Hemothorax (surgery, therapy); Humans; Thoracostomy (methods, standards); Thrombolytic Therapy (methods, standards)


BACKGROUND: Traumatic hemothorax poses diagnostic and therapeutic challenges both acutely and chronically. A working group of the Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma convened to formulate a practice management guideline for traumatic hemothorax. METHODS: We formulated four questions: whether tube thoracostomy vs observation be performed, should pigtail catheter versus thoracostomy tube be placed to drain hemothorax, should thrombolytic therapy be attempted versus immediate thoracoscopic assisted drainage (VATS) in retained hemothorax (rHTX), and should early VATS (≤4 days) versus late VATS (>4 days) be performed? A systematic review was undertaken from articles identified in multiple databases. RESULTS: A total of 6391 articles were identified, 14 were selected for guideline construction. Most articles were retrospective with very low-quality evidence. We performed meta-analysis for some of the outcomes for three of the questions. CONCLUSIONS: For traumatic hemothorax we conditionally recommend pigtail catheters, in hemodynamically stable patients. In patients with rHTX, we conditionally recommend VATS rather than attempting thrombolytic therapy and recommend that it should be performed early (≤4 days).

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