Nigerian Journal of Surgery

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Chest Injuries Associated with Head Injury

Wilfred Chukwuemeka Mezue, Chika A Ndubuisi, Uwadiegwu A Erechukwu, Samuel C Ohaegbulam


Background: Although there have been significant advances in the management of traumatic brain injury (TBI), associated severe injuries, in particular chest injuries, remain a major challenge. This paper analyses the contribution of chest injuries to the outcome of head injuries in the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH) and the Memfys Hospital for Neurosurgery (MHN) in Enugu, Nigeria. Materials and Methods: This is a retrospective review of the medical records, operative notes, and radiological findings of all patients admitted for head injury who had associated significant chest injuries in the MHN from 2002 to 2009 and the UNTH between 2007 and 2010. Patients with only head injury and other extracranial injury not affecting the chest were excluded. Patients who were inadequately investigated were also excluded. Results: Nineteen patients from the MHN and 11 patients from the UNTH were analyzed. Ages ranged from 9 to 65 years and the male:female ratio was 3:1. Injuries were most common between 30 and 50 years and road traffic accident accounted for 60%. Barotrauma from ventilation was documented in 2 patients. The commonest types of intrathoracic injuries are pneumothorax and hemothorax. Chest wall injuries are more common but carry less morbidity and mortality. Only 20% of patients presented within 48 hours of injury. Management of the associated chest trauma commenced in the referring hospitals only in 26.4% of the patients. All patients with hemopneumothorax had tube thoracostomy as did 96% of patients with pneumothorax. 10% of patients with haemothorax needed thoracotomy. Mortality is 43%, which is higher than for patients with only TBI with comparable Glasgow coma scale. Outcome is influenced by the time to admission and the GCS on admission. Conclusion: Associated chest injuries result in higher mortality from head injuries. This association is more likely in the young and more productive. All patients presenting with head and spinal cord injury should be specifically and carefully evaluated for associated chest injuries. Computerized tomographic has not replaced the need for good quality chest radiograph in the emergency management of Head Injury associated chest trauma.

Keywords: Chest injuries, head injuries, outcome

Nigerian Journal of Surgery, Jan-Jun 2012 | Volume 18 | Issue 1

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