Background: Chest injuries constitute a continuing challenge to the trauma or general surgeon practicing in developing countries. This study was conducted to outline the etiological spectrum, injury patterns and short term outcome of these injuries in our setting.
Patients and methods: This was a prospective study involving chest injury patients admitted to Bugando Medical Centre over a six-month period from November 2009 to April 2010 inclusive.
Results: A total of 150 chest injury patients were studied. Males outnumbered females by a ratio of 3.8:1. Their ages ranged from 1 to 80 years (mean = 32.17 years). The majority of patients (72.7%) sustained blunt injuries. Road traffic crush was the most common cause of injuries affecting 50.7% of patients. Chest wall wounds, hemothorax and rib fractures were the most common type of injuries accounting for 30.0%, 21.3% and 20.7% respectively. Associated injuries were noted in 56.0% of patients and head/neck (33.3%) and musculoskeletal regions (26.7%) were commonly affected. The majority of patients (55.3%) were treated successfully with non-operative approach. Underwater seal drainage was performed in 39 patients (19.3%). One patient (0.7%) underwent thoracotomy due to hemopericardium. Thirty nine patients (26.0%) had complications of which wound sepsis (14.7%) and complications of long bone fractures (12.0%) were the most common complications. The mean LOS was 13.17 days and mortality rate was 3.3%. Using multivariate logistic regression analysis, associated injuries, the type of injury, trauma scores (ISS, RTS and PTS) were found to be significant predictors of the LOS (P < 0.001), whereas mortality was significantly associated with pre-morbid illness, associated injuries, trauma scores (ISS, RTS and PTS), the need for ICU admission and the presence of complications (P < 0.001).
Conclusion: Chest injuries resulting from RTCs remain a major public health problem in this part of Tanzania. Urgent preventive measures targeting at reducing the occurrence of RTCs is necessary to reduce the incidence of chest injuries in this region.