Am J Surg. 2020 Jul 31:S0002-9610(20)30451-7. doi: 10.1016/j.amjsurg.2020.07.022. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: Pulmonary contusions are common injuries. Computed tomography reveals vast contused lung volume spectrum, yet pulmonary contusions are defined dichotomously (unilateral vs bilateral). We assessed whether there is stepwise increased risk of pulmonary complications among patients without, with unilateral, and with bilateral pulmonary contusion.
METHODS: We identified adults admitted with rib fractures using the largest US inpatient database. After propensity-score-matching patients without vs with unilateral vs bilateral pulmonary contusions and adjusting for residual confounders, we compared risk for pneumonia, ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP), respiratory failure, intubation, and mortality.
RESULTS: Among 148,140 encounters of adults with multiple rib fractures, 19% had concomitant pulmonary contusions. Matched patients with pulmonary contusions had increased risk of pneumonia 19% [95%CI:16-33%], respiratory failure 40% [95%CI: 31-50%], and intubation 46% [95%CI: 33-61%]. Delineation showed bilateral contusions, not unilateral contusions, attributed to increased risk of complications.
CONCLUSIONS: There is likely a correlation between contused lung volume and risk of pulmonary complications; dichotomously classifying pulmonary contusions is insufficient. Better understanding this correlation requires establishing the clinically significant contusion volume and a correspondingly refined classification system.