Background: Despite the prevalence and recognized association of pulmonary contusion and flail chest (PC-FC) as a combined, complex injury pattern with interrelated pathophysiology, the mortality and morbidity of this entity have not improved during the last three decades. The purpose of this updated EAST practice management guideline was to present evidence-based recommendations for the treatment of PC-FC.
Methods: A query was conducted of MEDLINE, Embase, PubMed and Cochrane databases for the period from January 1966 through June 30, 2011. All evidence was reviewed and graded by two members of the guideline committee. Guideline formulation was performed by committee consensus.
Results: Of the 215 articles identified in the search, 129 were deemed appropriate for review, grading, and inclusion in the guideline. This practice management guideline has a total of six Level 2 and eight Level 3 recommendations.
Conclusion: Patients with PC-FC should not be excessively fluid restricted but should be resuscitated to maintain signs of adequate tissue perfusion. Obligatory mechanical ventilation in the absence of respiratory failure should be avoided. The use of optimal analgesia and aggressive chest physiotherapy should be applied to minimize the likelihood of respiratory failure. Epidural catheter is the preferred mode of analgesia delivery in severe flail chest injury. Paravertebral analgesia may be equivalent to epidural analgesia and may be appropriate in certain situations when epidural is contraindicated.A trial of mask continuous positive airway pressure should be considered in alert patients with marginal respiratory status. Patients requiring mechanical ventilation should be supported in a manner based on institutional and physician preference and separated from the ventilator at the earliest possible time. Positive end-expiratory pressure or continuous positive airway pressure should be provided. High-frequency oscillatory ventilation should be considered for patients failing conventional ventilatory modes. Independent lung ventilation may also be considered in severe unilateral pulmonary contusion when shunt cannot be otherwise corrected.Surgical fixation of flail chest may be considered in cases of severe flail chest failing to wean from the ventilator or when thoracotomy is required for other reasons. Self-activating multidisciplinary protocols for the treatment of chest wall injuries may improve outcome and should be considered where feasible.Steroids should not be used in the therapy of pulmonary contusion. Diuretics may be used in the setting of hydrostatic fluid overload in hemodynamically stable patients or in the setting of known concurrent congestive heart failure.