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, 71 (6), 2059-65

Blunt Tracheobronchial Injuries: Treatment and Outcomes


Blunt Tracheobronchial Injuries: Treatment and Outcomes

A C Kiser et al. Ann Thorac Surg.


Background: Tracheobronchial injury is a recognized, yet uncommon, result of blunt trauma to the thorax. Often the diagnosis and treatment are delayed, resulting in attempted surgical repair months or even years after the injury. This report is an extensive review of the literature on tracheobronchial ruptures that examines outcomes and their association with the time from injury to diagnosis.

Methods: We reviewed all patients with blunt tracheobronchial injuries published in the literature to determine the anatomic location of the injury, mechanism of the injury, time until diagnosis and treatment, and outcome. Only patients with blunt intrathoracic tracheobronchial traumas were included.

Results: We identified 265 patients reported between 1873 and 1996. Motor vehicle accidents were the most frequent mechanism of injury (59%). The overall mortality among reported patients has declined from 36% before 1950 to 9% since 1970. The injury occurred within 2 cm of the carina in 76% of patients, and 43% occurred within the first 2 cm of the right main bronchus. The proximity of the injury to the carina had no detectable effect on mortality. Injuries on the right side were treated sooner but were associated with a higher mortality than left-sided injuries. No association was detected between delay in treatment and successful repair of the injury; ninety percent of patients undergoing treatment more than 1 year after injury were repaired successfully.

Conclusions: This review of patients with blunt tracheobronchial injuries represents the largest cohort studied to date. These data suggest an ability to repair tracheobronchial injuries successfully many months after they occur. We are also able to assess the mortality associated with the location and side of injury, examine the time from injury until diagnosis and treatment, and evaluate treatment outcome.

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