Size as an Important Determinant of Chest Blow–induced Commotio Cordis

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Abstract

Purpose

Commotio cordis is sudden cardiac death caused by a relatively innocent blow to the left chest wall. Adolescents account for the majority of the cases; whether this is due to the higher frequency of adolescents playing ball sports or whether there is some maturational reduction of risk is not known.

Methods

In a swine model of commotio cordis, the effect of body weight/size (directly related to age) to the susceptibility of chest impact–induced ventricular fibrillation (VF) is examined.

Methods

Ball impacts were delivered at escalating velocities from 48.3 to 96.9 km·h−1 (30–60 mph) to 128 swine ranging in weight from 5 to 54 kg.

Results

VF occurred in 29% of impacts to the smallest animals compared with 34% in the 14- to 239-kg group, 27% in the 24- to 33.9-kg group, 30% in 34- to 43-kg group, and 15% in the 44- to 54-kg animals. The highest-weight group was associated with a significantly lower incidence of VF compared with other weights (P = 0.002). In a multivariate logistic regression analysis, controlling for repeated measures, four variables predicted VF: body weight (P = 0.0008), velocity (P < 0.0001), distance from the center of the heart, (P < 0.0001), and peak left ventricular pressure induced by the blow (P = 0.0007).

Conclusions

In this experimental model, animals weighing <44 kg seem to have a similar susceptibility to commotio cordis, whereas animals weighing ≥44 kg have a lower susceptibility. An increase in size of the individual, rather than reduced play of ball sports, is the likely reason for the decreased commotio cordis incidence in older individuals.

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