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Surgeons remove a chainsaw from man's neck

Chainsaw in neck X-ray
Chainsaw in neck X-ray
Allegheny Health Network

If missed the show “Untold Stories of the ER” Sunday night on Discovery Fit & Health, you missed seeing surgeons remove a chainsaw from a man's neck.

Yep, you read that right. James Valentine, 21, from Pittsburgh was working as a tree-trimmer back in April, when he was struck in the neck by a chainsaw. The show revisited the case and showed how doctors handled the delicate removal of that massive piece of machinery.

Dr. Christine C. Toevs, trauma ICU medical director at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, Penn., told, “As a trauma surgeon, we see a large collection of unusual things, including object impalement. But chains to the neck with a chainsaw is still very impressive, even in the world of a trauma surgeon.”

Toevs and her team had just 10 minutes’ notice before Valentine was brought in. Her biggest concern was that he would bleed to death or that he had injured his carotid artery, which brings the brain to the blood. An injury to his esophagus also presented a huge issue for breathing.

Valentine was able to speak and wiggle his toes, showing his airway and spinal cord were okay.

Emergency personnel were able to remove the motor of the chainsaw which was still attached. But the blade needed to remain still. Since, his trachea wasn't damaged, doctors intubated him and put him on a ventilator for the surgery.

The team put Valentine to sleep, then took out the blade. Exploring the wound, they found that the blade went in about three inches in his shoulder and one inch into his neck, but had not damaged his carotid artery.

“If it had gone a centimeter deeper, it would’ve hit. The muscle overlying the carotid was intact. Then we just explored the wound,” Toevs said. “At that point in time, it’s a huge letdown— we were preparing for the absolute worst.”

Valentine was admitted to the hospital overnight and began working with a physical therapist the next day.

To see this story and other stories like this go to Discovery Fit and Health.

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