Penetrating chest trauma predominantly occurs after gunshot or stab wounds and the extent of injury can range from mild and local tissue damage to life-threatening bleeding, hemo/pneumothorax, and respiratory failure. Dyspnea, hemoptysis, and shock are some of the most common symptoms. A properly conducted physical examination is sufficient to make the initial diagnosis that is further supported by imaging studies such as ultrasonography and computed tomography (CT).
Chest trauma is more commonly described in clinical practice after blunt force injuries (motor vehicle accidents, falls, sport-related contact, etc.), but in approximately 10% of cases, penetrating chest trauma may be encountered . Gunshot (mainly high-velocity) and stab wounds are the two main causes of such trauma, while impalement and other forms have been observed in some cases   . This type of injury is seen across all ages and males seem to be more frequently affected  . One of the worrisome aspects of penetrating chest trauma is the potential damage to the vascular structures (major blood vessels and the heart), which is why mortality rates are higher compared to blunt chest trauma   . Furthermore, skeletal fractures (of the ribs, and the sternum), direct lung injury (causing pneumothorax, hemothorax, contusion, or damage of the parenchyma), as well as diaphragmatic and esophageal injury can accompany penetrating chest trauma   . The clinical presentation may not always reflect the severity of trauma , and respiratory-related complaints are reported - dyspnea, hypoxemia, and hemoptysis . As both cardiac output and respiratory function might decline rapidly (particularly if the heart is damaged), hemorrhage and cardiorespiratory insufficiency can cause life-threatening shock   . Sepsis is a late, but very important complication .
Entire Body System
- Wound Infection
Complications after esophageal repair include the following: Esophageal leaks and fistulae Wound infections Mediastinitis Empyema Sepsis Pneumonia Long-term complications, such as esophageal stricture, are also possible. [emedicine.medscape.com]
[…] are debrided to remove tissue that cannot survive and other material that presents risk for infection.  Nnegative pressure wound therapy is no more effective in preventing wound infection than standard care when used on open traumatic wounds.  [en.wikipedia.org]
The most dangerous complications were pneumonia (42 patients), ARDS (17 patients), air leakage (15 patients), hemothorax (11 patients), pleural empyema (9 patients), wound infections (7 patients), and multiple organ failure (6 patients). [omicsonline.org]
- Painful Cough
Patient complained of pain, cough, breathlessness and hemoptysis. After admission pulse rate was 126/min, blood pressure 106/62, respiratory rate was 42/min, room air SpO2 was 88%. [jusurgery.com]
The clinical picture may include painful swallowing; throat, neck, or chest pain; cough; hematemesis; dyspnea; and/or subcutaneous emphysema. [ahcmedia.com]
Symptoms and signs include tachypnea, hypotension, hypoxia, cyanosis, and air movement through the wound during respiration. [journals.lww.com]
Prehospital hypertonic saline/dextran infusion for post-traumatic hypotension: the U.S.A. Multicenter Trial. Ann Surg. 1991 1991: 213; 482-491. Bickell WH, Wall MJ Jr, Pepe PE et al. [bestbets.org]
Tachycardia and hypotension will become profound, followed by decreased level of consciousness. [medictests.com]
Immediate versus delayed fluid resuscitation for hypotensive patients with penetrating torso injuries. N Engl J Med 1994; 331:1105-1109. 4. Gross D, Landau EH, Assalia A, Krausz MM. [books.google.it]
These include; difficulty breathing, hypotension from blood loss, failure of the lungs to expand properly, crunching sounds when palpating the rib cage, bruising of the chest wall, coughing up blood, and a puncture wound to the chest that sucks air. [akdlawyers.com]
- Chest Pain
Two weeks later the patient returned to the hospital with pleuritic chest pain and shortness of breath. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
In patients who are awake and lucid, chest trauma can present with chest pain to dyspnea to back or abdominal pain and occasionally syncope. [cdemcurriculum.com]
- Subcutaneous Crepitus
He had palpable subcutaneous crepitus over the chest and abdomen with massive scrotal swelling, and his back exam revealed multiple penetrating wounds ( Figure 1 ). Autopsy results found five right-sided posterior thoracic gunshot wounds. [westjem.com]
As early initiation of proper therapy could be life-saving, the importance of a prompt diagnostic workup is of critical importance. Physicians should be able to make the diagnosis after a detailed inspection of the chest, suggesting the pivotal role of a physical examination. The presence of bowel sounds in the thorax and abnormal breathing sounds are important abnormal findings . A thorough patient history must cover the mode of injury, when it occurred, and assess the course and progression of symptoms. Imaging studies, however, are necessary to determine the extent of injury and the status of the surrounding organs and tissues. Plain radiography is described as a good initial method to start the diagnostic workup , but thoracic ultrasonography, because of the ability to use it in the field and more easily in the emergency setting, has emerged as an equally effective, if not superior procedure for the evaluation of penetrating chest trauma  . Digital radiography seems to be highly useful for the assessment of skeletal injuries , but the introduction of computed tomography (CT) has greatly improved the overall quality of diagnostics . Multidetector CT (MDCT) is the gold-standard for identifying the exact status of the organs situated in the thorax and should be employed whenever possible  .
Clinical skill and judgment along with plain radiographs provide the basis for treatment in most cases. More sophisticated imaging techniques, with the exception of angiography, are of limited value. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
The Society for Vascular Surgery published data regarding the use of endovascular grafts in the treatment of acute aortic transections; 97% were due to a motor vehicle accident. [emedicine.medscape.com]
Treatment: treatment for a tension pneumothorax is needle decompression, a skill typically available only to ALS providers. [medictests.com]
Chest trauma can present in many unique and unusual ways, but, if managed in time, patients can have an excellent prognosis. This video shows three cases of chest trauma with different modes of injury and varied presentations. [ctsnet.org]
Age and gender are the most important determinants of injury mechanism, pattern, and prognosis. Chest trauma in infants and toddlers is most commonly the result of abuse or motor vehicle crashes. [clinicaladvisor.com]
In patients with GSWs from high-caliber missiles, the absence of an organized cardiac rhythm portends a grave prognosis. [emedicine.medscape.com]
Evaluation of MGAP and GAP trauma scores to predict prognosis of multiple-trauma patients. Trauma Mon 2017;22:e33249. Soar J, Perkis GD, Abbas G, et al. [ahcmedia.com]
An expanding scrotum with crepitus may provide a valuable clue to an underlying serious etiology that is not immediately obvious. [westjem.com]
“Prehospital Pathophysiology” provides an opportunity for EMS providers to either refresh their knowledge related to the etiology of a certain disease or expand their knowledge base regarding common and not-so-common disease processes. [emsworld.com]
This procedure is reserved for patients with significant hemodynamic compromise without another likely etiology. Echocardiography is a rapid, noninvasive, and accurate test for pericardial fluid. [emedicine.medscape.com]
A prospective, population-based study of the demographics, epidemiology, management, and outcome of out-of-hospital pediatric cardiopulmonary arrest. Ann Emerg Med. [books.google.it]
The authors also provide a concise overview of the epidemiology and physiology of pediatric chest trauma. Dowd, MD, Keenan, HT, Bratton, SL. “Epidemiology and prevention of childhood injuries”. Crit Care Med. vol. 30. 2002. pp. S385-92. [clinicaladvisor.com]
Epidemiology of chest trauma. Surg Clin North Am. 1989 Feb. 69(1):15-9. 3. Mancini MC. Blunt Chest Trauma. Retrieved 15 November 2015. 4. Champion HR et al. The Major Trauma Outcome Study: establishing national norms for trauma care. [ems1.com]
Epidemiology of chest trauma. Surg Clin North Am 1989; 69 (1) 15–9. 2. Thoracic trauma. In: ATLS : Advanced trauma life support. 6th ed. Chicago (IL): American College of Surgeons; 1997. p. 127–41. 3. Martin K. [journals.lww.com]
Epidemiology of chest trauma. Surg Clin North Am. 1989 Feb. 69 (1):15-9. [Medline]. Davis JS, Satahoo SS, Butler FK, Dermer H, Naranjo D, Julien K, et al. An analysis of prehospital deaths: Who can we save?. [emedicine.medscape.com]
Also discussed will be assessment and treatment problems relating to the pathophysiology of these injuries. [emsworld.com]
The book is not intended to serve as a comprehensive volume of pathophysiology and management in trauma; rather the goal is to provide practical solutions on how to treat injuries surgically. [books.google.com]
CONCLUSION: Anatomical and pathophysiological knowledge and the standardized management of the international guidelines are the key to keep a high level of suspect with a patient with chest penetrating trauma. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
Although the pathophysiology of delayed pericardial effusion is unclear, autoimmune postpericardiotomy syndrome has been proposed as the cause of this rare condition. [cambridge.org]
Mechanism of Injury Mechanism of injury is important in so far as blunt and penetrating injuries have different pathophysiologies and clinical courses. [trauma.org]
CONCLUSION: Placing chest tubes on continuous low pressure suction after penetrating chest trauma helps evacuation of blood, expansion of lung and prevents the development of clotted Haemothorax. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
[…] for Guideline Development Using GRADE GRADE Training Opportunities GRADE Instruction Available at “Teaching Evidence Assimilation for Collaborative Healthcare (TEACH)” Guideline Development Workshop Browse all guidelines All-Terrain Vehicle Injuries, Prevention [east.org]
Certain interventions may be performed in the field or at nontrauma centers to prevent imminent death, but rapid evacuation to a trauma center should not be delayed. A. [link.springer.com]
How can thoracic trauma be prevented? Trauma prevention is a difficult and multifactorial matter. [clinicaladvisor.com]
Air flows into the pleural space along a pressure gradient during inspiration and is prevented from leaving because a clot or other tissue creates a one-way valve. [journals.lww.com]
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