Evolution of Pulmonary Contusions in Patients With Severe Rib Fractures: Cause for Concern?

Suzanne F.M. Van Wijck*, Elizabeth F. Smith, Nicole L. Werner, Kelley Madden, Ernest E. Moore, Mathieu M.E. Wijffels, Fredric M. Pieracci

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Abstract

Introduction: 

The progression of pulmonary contusions remains poorly understood. This study aimed to measure the radiographic change in pulmonary contusions over time and evaluate the association of the radiographic change with clinical outcomes and surgical stabilization of rib fractures (SSRF). 

Methods: 

This retrospective cohort study included adults admitted with three or more displaced rib fractures or flail segment on trauma CT and when a chest CT was repeated within one week after trauma. Radiographic severity of pulmonary contusions was assessed using the Blunt Pulmonary Contusion Score (BPC18). Logistic regression was performed to evaluate the relation between SSRF and worsening contusions on repeat CT, adjusted for potential confounders. 

Results

Of 231 patients, 56 (24%) had a repeat CT scan. Of these, 55 (98%) had pulmonary contusion on the first CT scan with a median BPC18 score of 5 (P25-P75 3-7). Repeat CTs showed an overall decrease of the median BPC18 score to 4 (P25-P75 2-6, P =.02), but demonstrated a worsening of the pulmonary contusion in 16 patients (29%). All repeat CTs conducted within 12 hours post-injury demonstrated increasing BPC18. Radiographic worsening of pulmonary contusions was not associated with SSRF, nor with worse respiratory outcomes or intensive care length of stay, compared to patients with radiographically stable or improving contusions. 

Discussion: 

In patients with severe rib fracture patterns who undergo repeat imaging, pulmonary contusions are prevalent and become radiographically worse within at least the first 12 hours after injury. No association between radiographic worsening and clinical outcomes was found.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-269
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Surgeon
Volume90
Issue number2
Early online date30 Aug 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2023.

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