Background: Injury to the diaphragm from penetrating or blunt thoracoabdominal trauma is notoriously difficult to diagnose. Chest radiography, computed tomography scan, contrast studies, diagnostic peritoneal lavage, and laparoscopy are inadequate; thus, celiotomy is commonly performed in patients with suspected diaphragmatic injury. We compared the diagnostic accuracy of video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) with that of exploratory celiotomy in the evaluation of diaphragmatic and thoracoabdominal injury. Patients and methods: Hemodynamically stable patients admitted to a level I trauma center with blunt or penetrating injury to the lower chest or abdomen underwent VATS and subsequent celiotomy under the same general anesthetic. Intraoperative thoracoscopic findings were blinded to the abdominal surgeons. Results: Twenty-six patients were enrolled in the study over a 12-month period. Diaphragmatic injuries were identified in 8 patients (31%). Videothoracoscopy identified all eight injuries in these patients. Six of the 8 patients (75%) with diaphragmatic injuries sustained associated injury to intrathoracic or intra-abdominal organs. There was no mortality and no procedure-related morbidity. There were no missed injuries in patients who underwent VATS. Conclusions: Video-assisted thoracoscopy is a safe, expeditious, and accurate method of evaluating the diaphragm in injured patients, and is comparable in diagnostic accuracy to exploratory celiotomy.
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