Simple emergency haemorrhage control

I had the honour of attending trauma rounds with leading South African trauma surgeons today at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town. This was the first day of an intense week-long trauma education tour that I have organised for myself and three of my Sydney HEMS colleagues.

A technique for haemorrhage control in penetrating trauma is to place a Foley catheter (FC) in the wound and inflate the balloon to try to achieve compression of bleeding vascular structures. This has been life-saving in many cases and buys time to get the patient to a trauma or vascular surgeon or in some cases an interventional radiologist.

Catheter is knotted (black arrow) to occlude lumen. The wound is sutured around the catheter (white arrow).

First described by Gilroy and colleagues from Baragwanath Hospital in Johannesburg1, another, larger case series was subsequently reported by Cape Town’s Navsaria2, the Professor who conducted today’s trauma round I attended. In his paper he describes:

An 18- or 20-G FC was introduced into the bleeding neck wound. An attempt was made to follow the wound tract. The balloon was inflated with 5 ml of water or until resistance was felt. The FC was either clamped or knotted on itself to prevent bleeding through the lumen. The neck wound was sutured in two layers around the catheter. Continued bleeding around the catheter was an indication to proceed to surgery.

There were no deaths attributable to the use of FC balloon tamponade.

Prof. Navsaria describes the following algorithm for the subsequent investigation and management of these patients:

 I’ve been teaching this technique as an option in penetrating trauma for a few years but have never actually done it for real. Nice to finally see examples of its successful implementation by people who do this all the time. I’ve seen four patients with Foleys sticking out of their necks in the first 24 hours of being here.

1. Control of life-threatening haemorrhage from the neck: a new indication for balloon tamponade.
Injury. 1992;23(8):557-9

We report the use of a Foley catheter, placed through the wound, to provide balloon tamponade of major bleeding from the neck and supraclavicular fossae. In 10 consecutive explorations for exsanguinating injury in these regions balloon tamponade was used eight times, and was judged to be fully effective in four patients, partly effective in one, and ineffective in three patients.

2. Foley catheter balloon tamponade for life-threatening hemorrhage in penetrating neck trauma
World J Surg. 2006 Jul;30(7):1265-8

BACKGROUND: Foley catheter (FC) balloon tamponade is a well-recognized technique employed to arrest hemorrhage from penetrating wounds. The aim of this study was to review our experience with this technique in penetrating neck wounds and to propose a management algorithm for patients with successful FC tamponade.

METHODS: A retrospective chart review (July 2004-June 2005 inclusive) was performed of patients identified from a prospectively collected penetrating neck injury computer database in whom FC balloon tamponade was used. The units’ policy for penetrating neck injuries is one of selective nonoperative management. All patients with successful FC tamponade underwent angiography. A venous injury was diagnosed if angiography was normal. Ancillary tests were performed as indicated. Removal of the FC was performed in the OR.

RESULTS: During the study period, 220 patients with penetrating neck injuries were admitted to our unit. Foley catheter balloon tamponade was used in 18 patients and was successful in 17 patients. Angiography was positive in 3 patients, all of whom underwent surgery. The FC was successfully removed in 13 patients at a mean of 72 (range 48-96) hours. One patient bled after removal of the catheter, mandating emergency surgery.

CONCLUSION: Foley catheter balloon tamponade remains a useful adjunct in the management of selective patients with penetrating, bleeding neck wounds.

One thought on “Simple emergency haemorrhage control”

  1. Having had the privilege to go to the Bara in 2003 I’m really looking forward to what you think of SA medicine and what other pearls you find. Good luck with the rest of the trip!

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