Management of thoracic trauma in emergency service: Analysis of 1139 cases

Pak J Med Sci. 2013 Jan;29(1):58-63. doi: 10.12669/pjms.291.2704.


Objective: Thoracic trauma is a common cause of significant morbidity and mortality. This study presents a series of thoracic trauma with the aim to assess epidemiologic features, distribution of pathologies, additional systemic injuries, diagnosis, management and outcome.

Methodology: Between January 2007 and December 2011, all patients with thorax trauma admitted to the emergency service of our hospital were retrospectively reviewed with respect to age, gender, etiological factors, distribution of pathologies, additional systemic injuries, diagnosis, treatment modalities, referral and outcome.

Results: A total of 1139 patients with thorax trauma were included in the study. Of these, 698 (61.3%) were male and 441 (38.7%) were female, and the average age was 54.17±17.39 years. 1090 (95.7%) of the patients had blunt trauma, whereas 49 (4.3%) had penetrating trauma. Etiological factors were falls in 792 (69.5%), motor vehicle accidents in 259 (22.8%), animal related accidents in 39 (3.4%) and penetrating injuries in 49 (4.2%) patients. It was found that 229 (20%) patients had single, 101 (8.9%) had double, 5 (3%) had three or more, 10 (0.9%) had bilateral rib fractures and 19 (1.7%) had sternal fracture. Pneumothorax was diagnosed in 58 (5.1%) patients, whereas hemothorax, hemopneuomothorax and other system injuries were diagnosed in 36 (3.2%), 38(3.3%) and 292 (25.6%) respectively. In our series, thirteen patients (mortality rate 1.1%) died as result of hemorrhagic shock (n=8), respiratory distress (n=3) and severe multiple trauma (n=2).

Conclusion: Although majority of the patients with thorax trauma receive treatment as outpatients; thoracic traumas may be a life threatening condition, and should be identified and treated immediately. Mortality varies based on etiological factors, additional systemic pathologies, capabilities of the hospital especially diagnostic and treatment facilities in emergency services. We believe that a multidisciplinary approach to the patients with severe thorax trauma, and the opportunities of emergency bedside thoracotomy in emergency services will significantly reduce the morbidity and mortality.

Keywords: Hemothorax; Mortality; Pneumothorax; Rib fractures; Thoracic trauma.