WASHINGTON (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) – Resuscitative endovascular balloon occlusion of the aorta (REBOA) could be an acceptable alternative to thoracotomy in traumatic arrest patients who are hemorrhaging below the diaphragm, according to the results of a small pilot study which were presented by William Teeter, MD, at the annual clinical congress of the American College of Surgeons.

Furthermore, virtual simulation training sufficiently prepares surgeons to safely use the REBOA technique in the acute care setting, a separate study found. Importantly, this training has the potential to allow REBOA to become a widespread tool for surgeons regardless of their endovascular surgical experience.

REBOA is an emerging and less invasive method of aortic occlusion during traumatic arrest. “Recent evidence published in the Journal of Trauma suggests that REBOA has similar outcomes to resuscitative thoracotomy with aortic cross-clamping or RTACC,” said Dr. Teeter , who is currently an emergency medicine resident at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, but conducted this research during a fellowship at the University of Maryland Medical Center’s R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

Dr. Teeter presented the preliminary results of a pilot study involving 19 patients who received RTACC between 2008 and 2013 and 17 patients who received REBOA between 2013 and 2015. All study participants were trauma patients who arrived at the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in arrest or arrested shortly after arrival.

Age, gender, Glasgow Coma Scale, and injury severity score were the same or similar between the two groups, Dr. Teeter reported. Mean systolic blood pressure at admission was 14 mmHg for the REBOA group and 28 mmHg for the RTACC group; however, the majority of patients (82% of REBOA patients and 73% of RTACC patients) arrived with a blood pressure of 0, reported Dr. Teeter.

Importantly, patients in the RTACC group who had penetrating chest injury were excluded for this analysis, Dr. Teeter noted, adding that there was a slightly higher incidence of blunt trauma within the REBOA group likely due to “a change in practice at the trauma center during this time.”

All resuscitations were captured with real-time videography. Continuous vitals were also collected and analyzed.

While more RTACC patients survived to the operating room (53% vs. 68%), among the REBOA group there were more patients who experienced return of spontaneous circulation (53% vs. 37%). However, neither of these results was statistically significant.

Following occlusion of the aorta, the blood pressure measures, taken from continuous vital signs and averaged over a 15-minute period, were 80 mmHg for the REBOA group and 46 mmHg for the RTACC group. Again, this result was statistically insignificant but trended toward favoring REBOA.

Overall, patient survival was dismal. Only one patient who received REBOA survived.

Following Dr. Teeter’s presentation, the study’s assigned discussant, Nicole A. Stassen, MD , of the University of Rochester Medical Center, N.Y., noted that while post-occlusion blood pressure was higher for the REBOA group it seemed not to matter as the majority of patients did not survive. Dr. Stassen also asked if these preliminary results were sufficient to inform or change clinical practice.

In response, Dr. Teeter explained that the pilot study was conducted at a time when the literature was unclear about how patients would respond to open versus endovascular occlusion, and this data helped guide further research and resuscitation efforts.

“At our center there has been a marked change in practice regarding which patients receive resuscitative thoracotomy and which get REBOA,” he added and concluded that “these and previous data suggest that the time performing thoracotomy for resuscitation purposes may be better spent performing CPR with REBOA.”

At the very least, this pilot study demonstrated that “REBOA may be an acceptable alternative to RTACC.” Further analysis of larger study populations will be published soon and will show that REBOA may be preferred over RTACC, according to Dr. Teeter.

In a subsequent presentation, David Hampton, MD , a surgical critical care fellow at the University of Maryland Medical Center’s R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, confirmed that many recent studies have demonstrated that REBOA is a comparable alternative to emergency thoracotomies. In fact, REBOA is commonly used throughout Japan, the United Kingdom, and in northern Europe; however, in the United States, REBOA is currently only used at a few Level 1 trauma centers and in the military, according to Dr. Hampton.

A major hindrance to wider-spread REBOA use in the United States is the lack of endovascular training for surgeons during residency which has resulted in a limited number of surgeons who can perform the REBOA technique and a limited number of surgeons who can teach the procedure to others, said Dr. Hampton.

In lieu of experience, formalized 1- or 2-day endovascular simulation courses, such as BEST , were created to prepare surgeons to use techniques such as REBOA. Prior validation studies, including those conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland, demonstrated that surgeons who participated in these courses improved surgical technique and increased their surgical knowledge base, Dr. Hampton reported.

To further elucidate the benefits of these training courses on the successful use of REBOA in the acute care setting, Dr. Hampton and his associates selected nine acute care surgeons with varying endovascular surgical experience to complete the 1-day BEST course and then compared surgeons’ performances of the REBOA technique after successful course completion.

During the study, a total of 28 REBOA procedures were performed, 17 by the surgeons with no endovascular experience, and the remaining 11 by surgeons with endovascular surgical experience.

Overall, there was no difference in wire placements, sheath insertion, position or localization of balloons, or balloon inflation. In addition, there was no difference in mortality among patients, and there were no known REBOA complications during this study.

In conclusion, endovascular experience during residency is not a prerequisite for safe REBOA placement, Dr. Hampton commented.

Taken together, these two research studies are really helping to break ground on REBOA use in the acute care setting, commented an audience member.

The Department of Defense funded Dr. Teeter’s study. Dr. Teeter and Dr. Hampton both reported having no disclosures.

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