Acute management of complex cardiac injuries

J Trauma. 1997 May;42(5):905-12. doi: 10.1097/00005373-199705000-00022.


Background: Injury to the heart has been studied extensively. However, a small group of patients with injuries to the coronary arteries or intracardiac structures may require a different operative approach.

Methods: Retrospective review of a cardiovascular injury database.

Results: Over a 20-year period, 711 cardiac injuries were treated. The mean age of the victims was 31.1 (90% men). Causes were primarily stab wounds (54%) and gunshot wounds (42%). Cardiac chambers injured included the right ventricle (40%), left ventricle (40%), right atrium (24%), and left atrium (3%). The overall mortality was 47%. Sixty complex injuries occurred. Of 21 left anterior descending coronary artery injuries (76.2% mortality), two patients presented with sufficient signs of life to warrant emergent coronary artery bypass (mortality 50%). There were seven circumflex/obtuse marginal coronary artery injuries, all treated with ligation (mortality 71.4%). Eight right/posterior descending coronary artery injuries (mortality 62.5%) were seen, and all but one were treated with ligation. The one patient not treated with ligation underwent coronary bypass and died. Delayed mitral valve replacement was performed for two valvular injuries (mitral). There were a total of 14 intracardiac fistulas (mortality 35.7%). All six of the surviving patients with ventricular septal defect required reoperation.

Conclusion: The mortality for complex injuries (coronary, septal, valvular) was 53%. This group was a specific population that self-selected by surviving to operation. Acute operations for complex injuries (beyond cardiorrhaphy) were primarily heroic life-saving efforts. Reoperation for cardiac injuries was most common for septal or valvular injuries. Only 2% of all survivors required reoperation to correct a residual defect.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Coronary Artery Bypass
  • Female
  • Heart Injuries / etiology
  • Heart Injuries / mortality
  • Heart Injuries / surgery*
  • Heart Valve Prosthesis
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Ligation
  • Male
  • Reoperation
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Survival Analysis
  • Wounds, Penetrating / etiology
  • Wounds, Penetrating / mortality
  • Wounds, Penetrating / surgery*