Acute Rupture of the Diaphragm in Blunt Trauma: Analysis of 60 Patients

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During a 9-year period, 60 patients with acutely ruptured diaphragms following blunt trauma were treated in our institution. Diaphragmatic injury was detected within 24 hours of hospital admission in all but two patients. The diagnosis was suggested by upright chest X-ray in 40% of the patients. Diaphragmatic tears were discovered at laparotomy for hemoperitoneum in the remaining patients. At initial evaluation hypotension was present in 67% of the patients, and respiratory distress was evident in 52%. In contrast to traditional teaching, there was a 30% incidence of right hemidiaphragmatic disruption. One patient experienced bilateral diaphragmatic rupture, and two had isolated tears of the pericardial diaphragm. Intra-abdominal organs were herniated through the diaphragmatic defect in only 32% of the patients. There was a 90% incidence of associated intra-abdominal injuries. The diaphragmatic tear was repaired via the abdomen in 53 patients, through a thoracoabdominal incision in five patients, and through the chest in only two cases. All defects were closed primarily. Twelve patients also required thoracotomy for resuscitation and/or correction of intrathoracic injury. Atelectasis was the most frequent postoperative complication, occurring in 65% of the patients. The mortality was 26.7% and was related to associated injuries in all cases.

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