Severe chest trauma, blunt or penetrating, is responsible for up to 25% of traumatic deaths in North America. Respiratory compromise is the most frequent dramatic presentation in blunt trauma, while injuries to the heart and great vessels pose the greatest risk of immediate death following penetrating trauma. More than 80% of patients will be managed with interventions that can be performed in the emergency department. This article reviews the presentation, diagnosis, and management of the most important thoracic injuries. A structured approach to the acutely unstable patient is proposed to guide resuscitation decisions.
Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.