Evaluating emergency department visits for spontaneous and traumatic pneumomediastinum: a retrospective analysis

Ulus Travma Acil Cerrahi Derg. 2024 Feb;30(2):107-113. doi: 10.14744/tjtes.2024.66059.


Background: Pneumomediastinum signifies the accumulation of air within the mediastinum. This condition can develop sponta-neously or as a secondary condition due to trauma or iatrogenic causes. Although rare, it is part of a wide differential diagnosis scale due to its most common presenting symptoms: chest pain and shortness of breath.

Methods: Our study is a retrospective, observational, and cohort investigation. It included patients who presented to the emer-gency department and were diagnosed with pneumomediastinum through computed tomography. The study evaluated patients' so-ciodemographic features, methods of presentation, chest tube insertion, other surgical procedures, outcomes, and patient dispositions. The primary outcome of the study focused on the results of traumatic and spontaneous pneumomediastinum: hospital admission, the necessity for thoracostomy tube insertion, requirement for surgical procedures, and mortality. The secondary aim was to determine the relationship between other clinical features and laboratory parameters and their impact on the outcomes.

Results: The study comprised 67 cases. The average age of the cases was 44.89±2.41 years. Of the cases, 67.2% (n=45) were male. In terms of development, 40.3% (n=27) of cases were classified as spontaneous, and 59.7% (n=40) were post-trauma pneumomediasti-num diagnoses. Among symptoms, 50.7% (n=34) of patients experienced dyspnea, and 49.3% (n=33) presented with chest pain, while symptoms like cough, fever, nausea, vomiting, and swallowing difficulty were reported in varying proportions. Among the patients, 9.0% (n=6) had lung disease, 29.9% (n=20) had comorbidities, 3.0% (n=2) had a history of substance use, 14.9% (n=10) underwent thoracostomy tube insertion, and 20.9% (n=14) required surgical procedures. While 35.8% (n=24) of the patients were admitted to the intensive care unit, 13.4% (n=9) died. The mean total hospital stay was calculated as 8.68±1.12 days. No statistically significant relationship was found between the development of pneumomediastinum and hospital admission (p=0.507).

Conclusion: Upon examining the causes of pneumomediastinum cases, it was observed that patients with a history of trauma required thoracostomy tube insertion and surgical intervention more frequently. However, when classified as spontaneous or trau-matic, both groups exhibited similar clinical courses and outcomes. Both groups demonstrated favorable clinical outcomes.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chest Pain / etiology
  • Dyspnea / complications
  • Emergency Room Visits
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mediastinal Emphysema* / diagnostic imaging
  • Mediastinal Emphysema* / etiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies