Blunt chest trauma: a clinical chameleon
The incidence of blunt chest trauma (BCT) is greater than 15% of all trauma admissions to the emergency departments worldwide and is the second leading cause of death after head injury in motor vehicle accidents. The mortality due to BCT is inhomogeneously described ranging from 9% to 60%. BCT is commonly caused by a sudden high-speed deceleration trauma to the anterior chest, leading to a compression of the thorax. All thoracic structures might be injured as a result of the trauma. Complex cardiac arrhythmia, heart murmurs, hypotension, angina-like chest pain, respiratory insufficiency or distention of the jugular veins may indicate potential cardiac injury. However, on admission to emergency departments symptoms might be missing or may not be clearly associated with the injury. Accurate diagnostics and early management in order to prevent serious complications and death are essential for patients suffering a BCT. Optimal initial diagnostics includes echocardiography or CT, Holter-monitor recordings, serial 12-lead electrocardiography and measurements of cardiac enzymes. Immediate diagnostics leading to the appropriate therapy is essential for saving a patient’s life. The key aspect of the entire management, including diagnostics and treatment of patients with BCT, remains an interdisciplinary team involving cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons, imaging radiologists and trauma specialists working in tandem.