Objective: To determine the impact of trans-thoracic ultrasound (TTUS) in patients with chest trauma and potential cardiac injuries and to determine the outcome of patients with cardiac injury detected on TTUS.
Method: Data were obtained from the Trauma Registry for all patients presenting alive to the University Hospital of the West Indies during the 10-year period commencing January 1, 2001 and who were subjected to a TTUS or emergency thoracotomy for cardiac injuries, or had cardiac injuries at postmortem. In addition to demographics, variables analysed included mechanism and site of injury and outcome.
Results: Of 405 patients being subjected to a TTUS during the period, 12 (3%) had cardiac injuries. During the same period, 63 patients in the Trauma Registry had proven cardiac injuries. Trans-thoracic ultrasound was thus conducted on 19% of all patients with cardiac injuries. Three patients had positive TTUS but no cardiac injuries. Of the patients with injuries, the mean age was 30.4 years, 92.1% were male and 65% were as a result of stab wounds, while 22% were as a result of gunshot wounds. The right ventricle was the most common site of injury, accounting for 41% of cases, while the left ventricle, both ventricles and other sites accounted for 27%, 17% and 14%, respectively. Ninety per cent of the group was subjected to emergency thoracotomy; mortality of the entire group was 48%, including one patient who had TTUS.
Conclusions: This review demonstrates that cardiac injuries remain lethal, diagnosis is largely clinical and TTUS may be over-utilized, having little impact on clinical outcome of patients presenting with this injury.