Doctors perform open heart surgery in middle of street to stop stab victim bleeding to death

Medics stop bleeding and restart victim's heart as taking him to hospital was too risky

Samuel Osborne
Wednesday 01 May 2019 13:01
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Doctor Chris Smith and his team conducted a thoracotomy to stop the bleeding and restart the patient's heart
Doctor Chris Smith and his team conducted a thoracotomy to stop the bleeding and restart the patient's heart

Two doctors saved a man’s life by performing an open heart surgery on the street after a stabbing in Durham.

The man was bleeding to death from his wounds when the Great North Air Ambulance Service was called.

He had gone into cardiac arrest by the time the helicopter arrived at the scene.

The paramedic team were already in the air at the time, allowing them to reach the victim in 15 minutes.

Emergency rescuers feared he would die if they took him to hospital, so began the surgery there and then.

Doctor Chris Smith and his team conducted a thoracotomy to stop the bleeding and restart the patient’s heart, a procedure he described as “relatively severe”.

They first made two small holes on either side of the chest to let out any trapped air, then cut across the chest to expose the heart and lungs.

The team found blood congealing around the man’s heart after cutting through a layer of tissue called the pericardium, and were able to remove a clot and clamp down on other areas which were bleeding.

Off-duty nurses and police officers performed CPE and chest compressions before the ambulance arrived.

The victim survived, though he suffered life-changing injuries.

The open-air heart surgery is thought to be a first for the region.

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“It’s probably the best feeling we can hope for as doctors and paramedics. We’re always hoping to have a survivor from a procedure like this,” Dr Smith said.

“I think it’s proof that if everything works in terms of the patient getting good care on scene straight away, if we can utilise the aircraft or the car and get the team to the scene as quickly as possible, then we can make a difference to that patient.”

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