Complications after penetrating cardiac injury

Trauma specialists from Arizona and California describe patients with penetrating cardiac wounds, a quarter of whom survive to discharge. Survival post discharge is good, with a range of complications at follow up but no operative intervention was required for the complications.

A significant rate of postdischarge complications is associated with penetrating cardiac injuries.

DESIGN: Retrospective trauma registry review.

SETTING: Level I trauma center.

PATIENTS: All patients sustaining penetrating cardiac injuries between January 2000 and June 2010. Patient demographics, clinical data, operative findings, outpatient follow-up, echocardiogram results, and outcomes were extracted.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Cardiac-related complications and mortality.

RESULTS: During the 10.5-year study period, 406 of 40,706 trauma admissions (1.0%) sustained penetrating cardiac injury. One hundred nine (26.9%) survived to hospital discharge. The survivors were predominantly male (94.4%), with a mean (SD) age of 30.8 (11.7) years, and 74.3% sustained a stab wound. Signs of life were present on admission in 92.6%. Cardiac chambers involved were the right ventricle (45.9%), left ventricle (40.3%), right atrium (10.1%), left atrium (0.9%), and combined (2.8%). In-hospital follow-up was available for a mean (SD) of 11.0 (9.8) days (median, 8 days; range, 3-65 days) and outpatient follow-up was available in 46 patients (42.2%) for a mean (SD) of 1.9 (4.1) months (median, 0.9 months; range, 0.2-12 months). Abnormal echocardiograms demonstrated pericardial effusions (9), abnormal wall motion (8), decreased ejection fraction (<45%) (8), intramural thrombus (4), valve injury (4), cardiac enlargement (2), conduction abnormality (2), pseudoaneurysm (1), aneurysm (1), and septal defect (1). No operative intervention was required for the complications. The 1-year and 9-year survival rates were 97% and 88%, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS: Penetrating cardiac injuries remain highly lethal. A significant rate of cardiac complications can be expected and follow-up echocardiographic evaluation is warranted prior to discharge. The majority of these, however, can be managed without the need for surgical intervention.

Postdischarge Complications After Penetrating Cardiac Injury: a survivable injury with a high postdischarge complication rate
Arch Surg. 2011 Sep;146(9):1061-6