Cardiac rupture

J Emerg Med. 2013 Jan;44(1):58-60. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2011.06.128. Epub 2012 Feb 1.


Background: Cardiac rupture is an unusual cause of chest pain and sudden cardiovascular collapse. This diagnosis may be easily forgotten while managing a patient in extremis in the initial minutes of evaluation and resuscitation in the emergency department (ED).

Objectives: To report the benefit of immediate bedside cardiac ultrasonography in the diagnosis of cardiac rupture and its influence on emergent intervention in the ED.

Case report: The initial electrocardiogram, performed within 5 min of arrival, of a 65-year old man who presented with 20 min duration of chest pain, showed a biphasic T wave in V1 and inverted T wave in V2, without ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction. Fifteen minutes later, he lost consciousness and was pulseless without a shockable rhythm on the monitor. Chest compressions were started and the patient was intubated. Echocardiography was performed at the bedside by the emergency physician. Cardiac contractility was grossly decreased in both ventricles and a large amount of pericardial fluid was seen. Two attempts at ultrasound-guided pericardiocentesis yielded only a few milliliters of blood. Interruptions in chest compressions were minimized during pericardiocentesis. Before transport of the patient to the operating room for definitive repair, asystole occurred. On the subsequent echocardiogram, heart contractions were absent and a hematoma was seen in the pericardial space. Resuscitation efforts were stopped. An autopsy was not performed per family request.

Conclusions: Typical ultrasonographic findings of cardiac rupture were present in this patient, who presented in extremis with chest pain. Early bedside echocardiography can be helpful in directing the initial care of critically ill patients.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Electrocardiography
  • Fatal Outcome
  • Heart Rupture / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Point-of-Care Systems
  • Ultrasonography