Blunt Chest Trauma in the Elderly Patient: How Cardiopulmonary Disease Affects Outcome

Alexander, Jason Q.; Gutierrez, Charles J.; Mariano, Myron C.; Laan, Thomas Vander; Gaspard, Donald J.; Carpenter, Catherine L.
September 2000
American Surgeon;Sep2000, Vol. 66 Issue 9, p855
Academic Journal
Blunt trauma patients with rib fractures have significant risk of morbidity and mortality. The risk of complications increases with age and cardiopulmonary disease. We reviewed our experience at a community hospital Level II trauma center over a 5-year period. A review of the trauma registry revealed 62 patients over the age of 65 with multiple rib fractures and no associated injuries. Thirty-one patients with cardiopulmonary disease (CPD+) were compared with 31 patients without cardiopulmonary disease (CPD-). Charts were reviewed for morbidity, mortality, the need to upgrade level of care (readmission to the hospital or intensive care unit), and length of hospitalization. Complications occurred in 17 of 31 CPD+ patients and in four of 31 CPD- patients (P < 0.001). The only three deaths were in CPD+ patients. Ten CPD+ patients and four CPD- patients required an upgrade in the level of care (P < 0.05). The CPD+ patients had longer hospitalization than the CPD- patients: 8.5 versus 4.3 days (P < 0.05). We conclude that elderly patients with multiple rib fractures and cardiopulmonary disease are at significant risk for complications that result in readmission to the hospital and intensive care unit and prolonged length of hospitalization. Admission to the intensive care unit with attention to cardiac and pulmonary status upon transfer to the ward is warranted.


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