Background: The purpose of this research was to compare associated injuries and mortality in multiply injured patients with scapular fractures with those without scapular fractures.
Methods: A prospectively collected database of multiply injured motor vehicle occupants with an Injury Severity Score >12 admitted to a level I regional trauma center during from January 1, 1996, to December 31, 2001, was reviewed to assess skeletal and organ injuries associated with a scapular fracture.
Results: Of 2,538 motor vehicle occupants, 94 occupants with concomitant scapular fractures and 2,444 occupants without scapular fractures revealed that 76.6% of motor vehicle occupants who sustained scapular fractures were males with a mean age of 44.3 years (SD=18.9). The presence of a scapular fracture reduced the risk of mortality by 44% (95%CI: 1-75%). Patients with scapular fractures had a greater proportion of flail chest injuries [relative risk (RR), 8.8; p < 0.001], clavicle fractures (RR, 4.5; p < 0.001), rib fractures (RR, 3.1; p < 0.01), spine fractures (RR, 2.7; p < 0.001), and tibia and fibular fractures (RR, 1.7; p < 0.025). The presence of a chest injury, either a pneumothorax (RR, 3.7; p < 0.001) or a pulmonary contusion (RR, 3.5; p < 0.001), was significantly more likely in patients with scapular fractures than control patients. Injuries to the spleen (RR, 2.4; p < 0.01) and liver (RR, 2.2; p < 0.025) were also significantly more common in patients with scapular fractures when compared with those without them.
Conclusions: In an observational study of multiply injured trauma patients from motor vehicle crashes, we report the following: (1) scapular fractures occur 3.7% of the time; (2) the presence of a scapular fracture was associated with a lower mortality; and (3) scapular fractures should alert healthcare personnel to the presence of other injuries, such as chest injuries, clavicle fractures, rib fractures, spine fractures, tibial fractures, and spleen and liver injuries. Our findings should be interpreted cautiously, because the mechanism of the association between scapular fractures and mortality remains unclear.