2-D echocardiography: Emergent use in the evaluation of penetrating precordial trauma

S. P. Freshman, David H Wisner, C. J. Weber

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43 Scopus citations


Diagnosis of cardiac injury in stable patients suffering penetrating precordial trauma has relied on observation, subxiphoid window, or exploratory thoracotomy. Previous reports have stressed the need for an alternative noninvasive diagnostic test. Although the use of echocardiography (ECHO) in this patient population has been suggested, to our knowledge no report thus far has presented extensive experience with this technique. We present our experience over 3 years with 36 patients in whom emergent ECHO was used as part of their initial work-up. Injuries included single stab wounds (17), multiple stab wounds (14), and gunshot wounds (5). Four patients (11%) had jugular venous distention, and 12 (33%) were tachycardic. None had a systolic blood pressure below 90 mm Hg. Four ECHOs (11%) were positive for pericardial effusion. No valvular abnormalities were detected. Three of the effusions were small and these patients were triaged to monitored beds and observed. All three effusions resolved on serial echocardiography. The fourth patient underwent an uneventful operative repair of a left ventricular laceration. Although the yield is low, emergent 2-D ECHO is a valuable tool in the triage of stable penetrating trauma patients when cardiac injury is suspected. Patients without effusion can be discharged or triaged to a ward bed. Small effusions can be observed in a monitored setting with serial examinations, while large effusions should be treated surgically. Echocardiography is less expensive than ICU admission and less invasive than either subxiphoid window or thoracotomy. There are no known complications associated with the procedure and it is recommended for emergent use when available.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)902-906
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Trauma
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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