Early surgical stabilization of flail chest has been shown to improve chest wall stability and diminish respiratory complications. The addition of video‑assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) can diagnose and manage intrathoracic injuries and evacuate hemothorax. This study analyzed the outcome of our 7-year experience with VATS-assisted surgical stabilization of rib fractures (SSRF) for flail chest.
From January 2013 to December 2019, all trauma patients undergoing VATS-assisted SSRF for flail chest were included. Patient characteristics and complications during 1-year follow-up were reported.
VATS‑assisted SSRF for flail chest was performed in 105 patients. Median age was 65 years (range 21–92). Median injury severity score was 16 (range 9–49). Hemothorax was evacuated with VATS in 80 patients (median volume 200 ml, range 25–2500). In 3 patients entrapped lung was freed from the fracture site and in 2 patients a diaphragm rupture was repaired. Median postoperative ICU admission was 2 days (range 1–41). Thirty-two patients (30%) had a post‑operative complication during admission and six patients (6%) a complication within 1 year. In-hospital mortality rate was 1%. Six patients (6%) died after discharge, due to causes unrelated to the original injury.
Addition of VATS to SSRF for flail chest seems helpful to diagnose and manage intrathoracic injuries and adequately evacuate hemothorax. The majority of complications are low grade and occur during admission. Further prospective research needs to be conducted to identify potential risk factors for complications and better selection for addition of VATS to improve care in the future.