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Wide variances exist in reports of survival rates after penetrating cardiac injuries because most are hospital-based reports and thus are affected by the local trauma system. The objective of this study was to report population-based, as well as hospital-based, survival rates after penetrating cardiac injury.Retrospective cohort analysis was performed during a 7-year period of 20,181 consecutive trauma admissions to a regional Level I trauma center and 6,492 medical examiner's reports. A meta-analysis was performed comparing survival rates with available population-based reports.There were 212 penetrating cardiac injuries identified, for an incidence of approximately 1 per 100,000 man years and 1 per 210 admissions. The overall survival rate was 19.3% (41 of 212) for the population studied, with survival rates of 9.7% (12 of 123) for gunshot wounds and 32.6% (29 of 89) for stab wounds. Ninety-six of the 212 patients were transported to the trauma center for treatment, resulting in an overall hospital survival rate of 42.7% (41 of 96), with a hospital survival rate of 29.3% (12 of 41) for gunshot wounds and 52.7% (29 of 55) for stab wounds.Review of population-based studies indicates that there has been only a minor improvement in the survival rates for the treatment of penetrating cardiac injuries.