August 1988

Subxiphoid Pericardial Window and Penetrating Cardiac Trauma

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Surgery, The University of Texas Health Science Center, Dallas. Dr Thirlby is now with the Virginia Mason Clinic, Seattle.

Arch Surg. 1988;123(8):937-941. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1988.01400320023003

• Between 1982 and 1986, 108 patients with penetrating wounds in proximity to the heart and no obvious signs of cardiac injury underwent a diagnostic subxiphoid pericardial window procedure. Eighty-four patients had stab wounds, 22 had gunshot wounds, and two had shotgun wounds. The subxiphoid pericardial window procedure produced positive results in 30 patients (28%) and negative results in 78 patients (72%). There were two false-positive subxiphoid pericardial window procedures. Eleven patients (39%) with cardiac injuries were not hypotensive and did not have signs or symptoms of cardiac injuries prior to the subxiphoid pericardial window procedure. When they were obtained (n=80), electrocardiograms were abnormal in 57% and 21% of patients with and without cardiac injuries, respectively. At thoracotomy, 28 patients had injuries (ventricle, 20; atrium, three; and pericardium, five) and 21 required suture repair. Thirty-nine patients underwent a concomitant laparotomy. Forty-six abdominal visceral injuries were identified in 28 patients, including 21 hollow viscus injuries. There was no significant short-term or long-term morbidity (eg, pericarditis, tamponade, or post-pericardiotomy syndrome) attributable to the subxiphoid pericardial window procedure. There were no known missed cardiac injuries, and there were no deaths in the series. Some patients with penetrating wounds to the heart have no overt signs or symptoms of cardiac injury. A subxiphoid pericardial window procedure quickly identifies or excludes cardiac injuries and can be performed with minimal morbidity, even when there is contamination from the gastrointestinal tract.

(Arch Surg 1988;123:937-941)