Non-life-threatening blunt chest trauma: appropriate investigation and treatment

Am J Emerg Med. 1997 May;15(3):240-3. doi: 10.1016/s0735-6757(97)90004-8.


Non-life-threatening blunt chest trauma is a commonly occurring phenomenon. No clear guidelines exist in the literature regarding the appropriate investigation and treatment, and most clinicians' practice patterns are based on anecdote, individual experience, and the theoretical risk of complications. A prospective study was undertaken of all patients with non-life-threatening blunt chest trauma presenting to a high-volume, community-based teaching hospital emergency department. No clinical features were found to have a high enough positive predictive value for rib fracture or any other injury to warrant their use as a screening tool for further investigations. No significant lung injury was detected in the study cohort of patients, on either an immediate or delayed basis. In the absence of compelling evidence of an underlying lung injury, the performance of chest or rib radiography is of no benefit, and considerable cost savings can potentially be realized.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cost Control
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Teaching
  • Humans
  • Lung Injury
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ontario
  • Prospective Studies
  • Radiography, Thoracic / economics
  • Rib Fractures / diagnostic imaging
  • Thoracic Injuries / diagnostic imaging*
  • Thoracic Injuries / therapy
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / diagnostic imaging*
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / therapy