Pulmonary contusion in the pan-scan era

Robert M Rodriguez, Benjamin Friedman, Mark I Langdorf, Brigitte M Baumann, Daniel K Nishijima, Gregory W Hendey, Anthony J Medak, Ali S Raja, William R Mower
Injury 2016, 47 (5): 1031-4

BACKGROUND: Although pulmonary contusion (PC) is traditionally considered a major injury requiring intensive monitoring, more frequent detection by chest CT in blunt trauma evaluation may diagnose clinically irrelevant PC.

OBJECTIVES: We sought to determine (1) the frequency of PC diagnosis by chest CT versus chest X-ray (CXR), (2) the frequency of PC-associated thoracic injuries, and (3) PC patient clinical outcomes (mortality, length of stay [LOS], and need for mechanical ventilation), considering patients with PC seen on chest CT only (SOCTO) and isolated PC (PC without other thoracic injury).

METHODS: Focusing primarily on patients who had both CXR and chest CT, we conducted a pre-planned analysis of two prospectively enrolled cohorts with the following inclusion criteria: age >14 years, blunt trauma within 24h of emergency department presentation, and receiving CXR or chest CT during trauma evaluation. We defined PC and other thoracic injuries according to CT reports and followed patients through their hospital course to determine clinical outcomes.

RESULTS: Of 21,382 enrolled subjects, 8661 (40.5%) had both CXR and chest CT and 1012 (11.7%) of these had PC, making it the second most common injury after rib fracture. PC was SOCTO in 739 (73.0%). Most (73.5%) PC patients had other thoracic injury. PC patients had higher admission rates (91.9% versus 61.7%; mean difference 30.2%; 95% confidence interval [CI] 28.1-32.1%) and mortality (4.7% versus 2.0%: mean difference 2.8%; 95% CI 1.6-4.3%) than non-PC patients, but mortality was restricted to patients with other injuries (injury severity scores>10). Patients with PC SOCTO had low rates of associated mechanical ventilation (4.6%) and patients with isolated PC SOCTO had low mortality (2.6%), comparable to that of patients without PC.

CONCLUSIONS: PC is commonly diagnosed under current blunt trauma imaging protocols and most PC are SOCTO with other thoracic injury. Given that they are associated with low mortality and uncommon need for mechanical ventilation, isolated PC and PC SOCTO may be of limited clinical significance.

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