Traumatic injuries: imaging of thoracic injuries

Eur Radiol. 2002 Jun;12(6):1273-94. doi: 10.1007/s00330-002-1439-6. Epub 2002 Apr 20.


Chest trauma is one of the most important causes of death, in particular in individuals under the age of 40 years. The mortality rate for chest trauma, often related to motor vehicle accidents, is approximately 15.5%; it increases dramatically to 77% with associated shock and head injury (Glasgow scores of 3-4). The accurate diagnosis of pathologies consequent to blunt chest trauma depends on a complete knowledge of the different clinical and radiological manifestations. The first diagnostic approach is classically based on chest X-ray often carried out on supine position at the hospital admission. A CT study must then be performed in all chest trauma patients in whom there is even the smallest diagnostic doubt on plain film. In particular, spiral CT (SCT) assumes a fundamental role in the demonstration of mediastinal hemorrhage and direct signs of aortic lesions. At present, SCT is routinely part of a diagnostic evaluation which also includes scans of the brain and the abdomen in polytraumatized patients. Magnetic resonance is the ideal method for visualizing diaphragmatic lesions. Furthermore, recent reports have demonstrated the high diagnostic value of MR in evaluating aortic injuries. The purpose of this article is to review the most common radiological patterns related to chest trauma.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic
  • Humans
  • Lung Injury
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Thoracic Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Thoracic Injuries / diagnostic imaging
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed