Diaphragmatic hernias with strangulated contents are a surgical challenge. Thoracoabdominal incisions are commonly used for a variety of thoracic and vascular cases, although rarely used for diaphragmatic hernias, which are typically repaired with laparotomy, thoracotomy, or minimally invasive approaches.
We present the unique case of a 60-year-old, critically ill unstable patient with severe heart failure with a reduced ejection fraction (15–25%) and severe valve disease presenting with a left-sided diaphragmatic hernia containing strangulated small intestine and requiring urgent surgical exploration. This was safely and efficiently repaired via a thoracoabdominal approach at the index surgery, with intestines left in discontinuity and placement of temporary chest and abdominal closure. At the second planned operation, good continuity was successfully restored.
The patient had early extubation, gradual diet advancement with full recovery, and discharge home on postoperative day 17.
A thoracoabdominal incision can safely be used in large strangulated diaphragmatic hernias, including in critically unstable patients. This approach provides rapid access to both the chest and abdomen with excellent, speedy, and safe exposure, which can save a life in extreme conditions.