Pediatric blunt cardiac injury: Epidemiology, clinical features, and diagnosis

M. Denise Dowd*, Steven Krug

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

106 Scopus citations


Aim: The goal of this study was to describe the epidemiology, clinical presentation, diagnostic methods, and outcome in a large series of children with blunt cardiac injury (BCI). Methods: A multicenter retrospective review of all individuals less than 18 years of age diagnosed with a BCI from 1983 to 1993 was conducted. Cases included all those with a discharge diagnosis of myocardial contusion, concussion, ventricular disruption, or unspecified BCI. Results: A total of 184 cases of BCI were identified in 16 participating centers. The median age was 7.4 years, and 73% were male. Myocardial contusions accounted for 95% of the diagnoses. The leading mechanisms were motor vehicle crashes involving a pedestrian (39.7%) or passenger (31.0%). The majority (87%) had multiple system trauma, with a mean Injury Severity Score of 27.2 (SD ± 14.4). Pulmonary contusions were present in 50.5% and rib fractures in 23.0%. The most common diagnostic test performed was a 12- lead electrocardiogram (EKG) (82%), followed by a MB band of creatine phosphokinase (CPK-MB) (69%) and echocardiogram (65%). All three tests were performed in 50%. In these patients, agreement among various diagnostic test pairs was fair (echocardiogram vs. EKG, κ = 0.27) to poor (echocardiogram vs. CPK-MB, κ = -0.07 and EKG vs. CPK-MB, κ = 0.08). No hemodynamically stable patient who presented with a normal sinus rhythm subsequently developed a cardiac arrhythmia or cardiac failure. There were 25 deaths (13.6%), 3 of which were caused by acute pump failure secondary to massive cardiac injury. The remainder died of head or abdominal injuries. Of the 159 (86.4%) patients surviving, 8 (5% of survivors) had significant cardiac sequela, most commonly mitral or tricuspid insufficiency or ventricular septal defect. Conclusions: Pediatric BCI is usually diagnosed in the context of severe multiple system trauma and is less commonly an isolated event. Because of the lack of a standard, various diagnostic tests are used in the diagnosis of BCI, and these tests rarely agree. In hospitalized pediatric patients with BCI, unanticipated complications are rare. Significant sequela, although uncommon, do occur and follow-up of children with BCI should be ensured.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-67
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Trauma - Injury, Infection and Critical Care
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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