Emergency physician credentialing for resuscitative thoracotomy for trauma: Trauma

Mark Fitzgerald, Gim Tan, Russell Gruen, De Villiers Smit, Kate Martin, Emma Newton-Brown, Carl Luckhoff, Amit Maini

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: A low case incidence and variable skill level prompted the development of a credentialing programme and specific surgical training in resuscitative thoracotomy for emergency physicians at The Alfred, a Level 1 Adult Victorian Major Trauma Service. Methods: A review of the incidence of traumatic pericardial tamponade and the objectives of resuscitative thoracotomy were undertaken. Results: A training programme involving pre-reading of a 17 page teaching manual, a 40 min didactic lecture and a 2 h surgical skills station using anaesthetized pigs were developed. The specific indication for resuscitative thoracotomy for this programme is ultrasound demonstrated cardiac tamponade secondary to blunt or penetrating truncal trauma in a haemodynamically unstable patient with a systolic blood pressure of less than 70 mmHg despite pleural decompression and intravenous volume replacement. Cardiac electrical activity must be present. The primary aims of resuscitative thoracotomy taught are release of cardiac tamponade, control of haemorrhage and access for internal cardiac massage. Conclusion: Emergency physicians working in high-volume Trauma Centres are expected to diagnose cardiac tamponade and on occasion decompress the pericardium. Specific training in the procedure should be undertaken.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)332-336
Number of pages5
JournalEMA - Emergency Medicine Australasia
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2010


  • cardiac tamponade
  • credentialing
  • focused assessment with sonography in trauma
  • resuscitative thoracotomy

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