Blunt injury to the heart ranges from contusion to disruption. This report comprises 14 patients seen during a 6-year period with cardiac rupture secondary to blunt trauma. Eight patients were injured in automobile accidents, two patients were injured in auto-pedestrian accidents, two were kicked in the chest by ungulates, and two sustained falls. Cardiac tamponade was suspected in ten patients. Five patients presented with prehospital cardiac arrest or arrested shortly after arrival. All underwent emergency department thoracotomy without survival. Two patients expired in the operating room during attempted cardiac repair; both had significant extracardiac injury. Seven patients survived, three had right atrial injuries, three had right ventricular injuries, and one had a left atrial injury. Cardiopulmonary bypass was not required for repair of the surviving patients. There were no significant complications from the cardiac repair.
The history of significant force dispersed over a relatively small area of the precordium as in a kicking injury from an animal or steering wheel impact should alert the physician to possible cardiac rupture. Cardiac rupture should be considered in patients who present with signs of cardiac tamponade or persistent thoracic bleeding after blunt trauma.
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