The usefulness of transesophageal echocardiography in diagnosing cardiac contusions

R L Weiss, J A Brier, W O'Connor, S Ross, C M Brathwaite
Chest 1996, 109 (1): 73-7

OBJECTIVES: To assess the usefulness of transesophageal echocardiography in diagnosing cardiac contusions in patients with blunt trauma.

BACKGROUND: For more than a decade, noninvasive tests, including ECGs, cardiac enzymes, nuclear studies, and transthoracic echocardiography have been utilized in an attempt to identify trauma patients with cardiac injuries. These tests have been imperfect in identifying the patients at high risk for mortality.

METHODS: We retrospectively reviewed the charts in 22 patients with transesophageal echocardiographically diagnosed cardiac contusions noting age, race, sex, transthoracic echocardiographic examinations, study quality, and outcome. We also noted the Injury Severity Score, which is a measure of the severity of illness in trauma patients. Higher scores correlate more severe injury and higher mortality. We defined cardiac contusions as presence of wall motion abnormality, including either or both ventricles, in the absence of transmural myocardial infarction on ECG following nonpenetrating chest trauma.

RESULTS: Over a 30-month period, 81 transesophageal echocardiographic examinations were performed on trauma patients. Among this group, 22 patients were diagnosed as having cardiac contusions. There were 15 patients with right ventricular contusions, 7 patients with left ventricular contusions, and 2 patients with both ventricles involved. We compared this group with all ICU trauma patients admitted to the hospital during this time period. Overall, the contusion patients had an average Injury Severity Score of 27 and a mortality of 27% compared with the overall trauma group with an Injury Severity Score of 33 and a corresponding mortality of 9% (p < 0.001). Corresponding ECGs were nondiagnostic in 73% of patients with cardiac contusion. There were no complications related to the transesophageal examinations.

CONCLUSIONS: Transesophageal echocardiographically diagnosed cardiac contusion in trauma patients carries a high mortality rate. Transesophageal examinations are safe and provide excellent quality images where transthoracic examinations were inadequate. Right ventricular contusions are approximately twice as common as left ventricular contusions.

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