Conference Coverage

REBOA improves survival for trauma patients


AT WSA 2017

– In a small, single-center study of patients with subdiaphragmatic hemorrhage, resuscitative endovascular balloon occlusion of the aorta (REBOA) improved hemodynamic status and 30-day survival rates, compared with resuscitative thoracotomy (RT).

Although the technique was first developed during the Korean War, REBOA never really caught on, possibly because of limitations in endovascular technology. But recent advances in surgical technique have revitalized interest.

Dr. R. Stephen Smith, professor of acute care surgery at the University of Florida, Gainesville

Dr. R. Stephen Smith

The technique involves insertion of a catheter into the femoral artery and inflating a balloon, which halts blood flow. It is intended as a temporary stopgap to stabilize patients until they can be brought to surgery, and it is believed to maintain cerebral and cardiac perfusion while reducing hemorrhages. REBOA is much less invasive than RT.

Despite the success of the study, some audience members expressed concerns about the skill set required. One questioner pointed out that emergency department physicians may be tempted to use the technique, even though they may not possess the requisite catheter and wire skills. That is a legitimate concern, according to senior author R. Stephen Smith, MD, FACS, professor of acute care surgery at the University of Florida, Gainesville. But this is already happening, he said. “They’ve already done it in the field in Britain, and most are placed by nonsurgeons in Japan. Frankly, we need to pay particular attention to the skills of those emergency medicine physicians, because the average emergency medicine physician at this point really doesn’t have the catheter or wire-based skills to do this safely,” Dr. Smith said at the annual meeting of the Western Surgical Association.

The researchers examined outcomes in patients who underwent REBOA versus RT over a 21-month (2015-2017) period at their institution. Before adopting REBOA, attending surgeons and senior surgical residents attended a 1.5-hour slide presentation combined with simulation training. No external course was required. Operating room personnel received a 30-minute slide presentation. The procedures were conducted in a dedicated trauma operating room equipped with imaging.

Sixteen patients underwent REBOA during the study period, with a mean injury severity score of 38.6. Preoperative hemoglobin levels ranged from 5 to 14.4 mg/dL, and the majority were acidotic because of trauma.

Fourteen of the 16 patients who underwent REBOA survived the operative procedure, and 6 survived to 30 days. By contrast, 8 patients were treated with RT, and none survived to 30 days. Ten of the 16 patients who underwent REBOA experienced an improvement in hemodynamic status, with systolic blood pressure improving to a mean of 131.83 mm Hg (±8.24) and improvement of heart rate to 87.5 (±5.47). One survivor developed a common femoral pseudoaneurysm.

Compared with nonsurvivors, REBOA patients who survived had a significant increase in Initial Glasgow Coma scores (15.0 vs. 6.18; P less than .05), and higher initial platelet counts (276.40 vs. 124.75; P = .01). Survivors also had higher initial postoperative systolic blood pressure (151.40 mm Hg vs. 112.33; P = .05), and a higher mean postoperative arterial blood pressure (109.00 mm Hg vs. 72.78; P = .01).

Overall, the findings were similar to those reported in previous multicenter trials.

The researchers pointed out that REBOA does not replace RT. The latter procedure is still appropriate for some moribund patients with super-diaphragmatic injury and in patients who require open cardiac massage.

The techniques are not mutually exclusive – two patients in the sample were treated with both techniques.

The researchers also mentioned some future possibilities for REBOA. Research in animals has demonstrated the promise of partial REBOA, in which an automated system can partially inflate the balloon and gradually deflate it as the patient’s vital signs improve. That can lighten the load for surgeons and anesthesiologists, according to Dr. Smith. “We look forward to developing that technology in the future,” he said.

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