Objective: This study investigates whether factors that determine myocardial performance (preload, afterload, heart rate, and contractility) are altered after isolated unilateral pulmonary contusion.
Methods: Catheters were placed in the carotid arteries, left ventricles, and pulmonary arteries of anesthetized, ventilated (FiO2=0.5) pigs (31.2+/-0.6 kg; n=26). A unilateral, blunt injury to the right chest was delivered with a captive bolt gun (n=17) followed by tube thoracostomy. To control for anesthesia and instrumentation at FiO2 of 0.5, one group received tube thoracostomy only (sham injury; n=6). To control for effects of hypoxia without chest injury, an additional sham-injury group (n=3) was ventilated with FiO2 of 0.12. To generate cardiac function (i.e., Starling) curves, lactated Ringer's solution was administered in three bolus infusions at serial time points; the slope of stroke index versus ventricular filling pressure defines cardiac contractility.
Results: By 4 hours after pulmonary contusion, pulmonary vascular resistance, airway resistance, and dead space ventilation were increased, whereas PaO2 (72+/-6 mm Hg at FiO2=0.5) and dynamic compliance were decreased (all p < 0.05). Despite profound lung injury, arterial blood pressure, heart rate, cardiac filling pressures, and output remained within the normal range, which is inconsistent with direct myocardial contusion. The slope of pulmonary capillary wedge pressure versus left ventricular end-diastolic pressure (LVEDP) regression was reduced by more than 50% from baseline (p < 0.05), but there was no significant change in the slope of the central venous pressure versus LVEDP regression. By 4 hours after contusion, the slope of the stroke index versus LVEDP curve was reduced by more than 80% from baseline (p < 0.05). By the same time after sham injury with FiO2 of 0.12 (PaO2 < 50 mm Hg), the regression had decayed a similar amount, but there was no change in the slope after sham injury with FiO2 of 0.5 (PaO2 > 200 mm Hg).
Conclusion: After right-side pulmonary contusion, the most often used estimate of cardiac preload (pulmonary capillary wedge pressure) does not accurately estimate LVEDP, probably because of changes in the pulmonary circulation or mechanics. Central venous pressure is a better estimate of filling pressure, at least in these conditions, probably because it is not directly influenced by the pulmonary dysfunction. Also, ventricular performance can be impaired by depressed myocardial contractility and increased right ventricular afterload even with normal left ventricular afterload and preload. It is thus conceivable that occult myocardial dysfunction after pulmonary contusion could have a role in the progression to cardiorespiratory failure even without direct cardiac contusion.