, Volume 37, Issue 7, pp 1652-1655
Date: 19 Apr 2013

Introducing Video-Assisted Thoracoscopy for Trauma into a South African Township Hospital

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access



The use of video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) is well established in trauma practice. This modality is readily available to centers with well-equipped operating facilities but may be challenging to introduce into resource-constrained institutions such as many South African township hospitals. We implemented VATS for retained post-traumatic pleural collections in our institution in 2007, and we have now performed an audit of the first 3 years of our experience.


A retrospective chart review was conducted of all patients who had undergone VATS from June 2007 to May 2010, and statistical analysis was performed to elucidate the findings.


Forty-three patients were examined, 40 of whom (93 %) were male. The mean age was 32 years (range: 15–52 years). Thirty-five patients (81 %) had stab injuries, 6 (14 %) had blunt injuries, and 2 (4 %) had gunshot wounds. Mean time from injury to VATS was 12.4 days (range: 3–31 days). Thirteen patients (30 %) had empyema at the time of VATS. The mean time from VATS to discharge was 9 days (range: 3–30 days). The postoperative complication rate was 14 % and included pneumonia (n = 3) and re-collections (n = 3, two of which were managed by reinsertion of a chest drain, and one cleared without further intervention). Further analysis revealed a longer postoperative length of stay when empyema was present at VATS (8 days for no empyema vs. 11 days when empyema was present; p = 0.027). The incidence of empyema increased progressively the longer the delay between injury and VATS (0 % for VATS performed in week 1, 32 % for VATS in week 2, 50 % for VATS in week 3, and 60 % for VATS beyond week 3; p = 0.019). The incidence of empyema increased when >1 chest drain was inserted prior to VATS (15 % for 0–1 chest drain vs. 43 % for >1 chest drain; p = 0.043).


Introducing VATS for retained post-traumatic collections into a relatively resource-constrained township hospital in South Africa is safe and effective. Consideration should be given to performing VATS early and avoiding the use of a second and third chest drain for retained collections. This approach may lead to decreased incidence of empyema and shorter overall hospital stay.