Clamshell in a Heartbeat

Sebastiaan J M Vreeswijk*, Lars P W Mommers, Dennis C J J Bergmans, Bas van Wageningen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


There is a restrained attitude toward the implementation and performance of resuscitative thoracotomy as a last resort procedure in patients with cardiac arrest after penetrating thoracic trauma. We present a case with a remarkable recovery and hope to boost morality in the use of this procedure in the prehospital setting. A disoriented 25-year-old woman stabbed multiple times was found next to the highway. Her clinical situation deteriorated swiftly upon arrival of the helicopter emergency medical services. They were able to perform a clamshell thoracotomy and fly the patient out to the nearest trauma center. She awoke with good neurologic function. Her hospital admission was complicated by mediastinitis. A routine cardiac ultrasound showed mitral valve insufficiency due to combined perforation of the anterior leaflet and ventricular septum. Both lesions were in the trajectory of the primary stab wound. Successful outcome in our case was due to the following: little delay between clinical deterioration and the arrival of the helicopter emergency medical services physician (signs of life on arrival of paramedics are an independent predictor of survival), young age and penetrating injury are associated with a good neurologic outcome in case of traumatic cardiac arrest, and extensive follow-up cardiac ultrasound as part of tertiary survey after resuscitative emergency thoracotomy is advised.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)509-511
Number of pages3
JournalAir Medical Journal
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 25 Nov 2020


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