Affordable Access

Prospective study of the yield of physical examination compared with chest radiography in penetrating thoracic trauma.

Publication Date
  • Research Article


A prospective study was conducted on 102 patients (84 male), with a median age of 27 years, who had sustained a penetrating chest wound to evaluate the ability of physical examination in comparison with chest radiography to determine management of these injuries. Knife wounds accounted for 92% of the injuries. Fifty three patients had a small collection of air or fluid in their pleural cavity that was not drained. Fifty six hemithoraces had a large collection of fluid or air and were treated by tube thoracostomy. Physical examination at presentation detected large collections of air and fluid correctly and predicted appropriate management (sensitivity 96%, specificity 94%). Residual collections of air or fluid or both were also predicted correctly by clinical examination. Seven small collections increased in size and required intubation. Routine pre-extubation radiographs were found to be of little value in management and their routine use is not recommended. Four patients required late thoracotomy for decortication. By using a policy of selective intubation, frequent clinical reassessment, and chest radiography when relevant, experienced trauma surgeons can manage most penetrating pleural injuries with an acceptably low complication rate.

There are no comments yet on this publication. Be the first to share your thoughts.