A systematic review of nonoperative management in blunt thoracic aortic injury

Jean Jacob-Brassard, Konrad Salata, Ahmed Kayssi, Mohamad A. Hussain, Thomas L. Forbes, Mohammed Al-Omran, Charles de Mestral

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Objective: The objective was to characterize the growing body of literature regarding nonoperative management of blunt thoracic aortic injury (BTAI). Methods: A systematic search of MedLine, Embase, and Cochrane Central was completed to identify original articles reporting injury characteristics and outcomes in patients with BTAI managed nonoperatively during their index hospitalization. Article title and abstract screening, full-text review, and data abstraction were performed in duplicate, with discrepancies resolved by a third reviewer. The quality of each study was evaluated using the Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Levels of Evidence. Results: Of 2162 identified studies, 74 were included and reported on 8606 patients with BTAI who were managed nonoperatively between 1970 and 2016. Only one study was prospective. The median nonoperative sample size per study was 11 patients. The characterization of aortic injury grade differed across studies. Follow-up varied widely from 1 day to 118 months. Injury healing or improvement on follow-up imaging occurred in 34% (226 of 673 patients; reported in 37 studies), most often in the context of grade I intimal injury. Injury progression or requirement for a thoracic endovascular aneurysm repair for injury progression was 7.6% (66 of 873 patients; reported in 46 studies). A total of 37 studies reported aortic-related death, with an overall rate of 4.5% (37 of 827 patients) and a rate of 1% in grade I and II injuries (1 of 153 patients) and 18% in grade III and IV (9 of 50 patients). Conclusions: An increasing number of reports support nonoperative management of grade I intimal injury, consistent with Society for Vascular Surgery guidelines. However, a retrospective interpretation of the determinants of management, heterogeneous injury characterization, and variable follow-up remain major limitations to the informed use of nonoperative management across all BTAI grades.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1675-1681.e6
JournalJournal of Vascular Surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Blunt trauma
  • Conservative treatment
  • Management
  • Systematic review
  • Thoracic aortic injury


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