The Role of Ultrasound for Detecting Occult Penetrating Cardiac Wounds in Hemodynamically Stable Patients



There is evidence in favor of using the ultrasound as the primary screening tool in looking for an occult cardiac injury. We report on a prospective single-center study to determine the diagnostic accuracy of chest ultrasound for the diagnosis of occult penetrating cardiac wounds in a low-resource hospital from a middle-income country.


Data were collected prospectively. We included all consecutive patients 14 years and older who presented to the Emergency Trauma Unit with (1) penetrating injuries to the precordial area and (2) a systolic blood pressure ≥ 90 mmHg (hemodynamically stable). The main outcome measures were sensitivity, specificity, and positive and negative predictive values of ultrasound compared with those of the pericardial window, which was the standard test.


A total of 141 patients met the inclusion criteria. Our results showed that for diagnosing an occult cardiac injury, the sensitivity of the chest ultrasonography was 79.31%, and the specificity was 92.86%. Of the 110 patients with a normal or negative ultrasound, six had a positive pericardial window. All of these patients had left hemothoraces. None of them required further cardiac surgical interventions.


We found that ultrasound was 79% sensitive and 92% specific for the diagnosis of occult penetrating cardiac wounds. However, it should be used with caution in patients with injuries to the cardiac zone and simultaneous left hemothorax.

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This work was conceived and conducted at the Department of Surgery from Universidad del Valle—Hospital Universitario del Valle in Cali, Colombia. Dr. Adolfo Gonzalez was the PI and supervised all the study process. Finally, the authors would like to recognize the outstanding work of Dr. Adolfo Gonzalez as a trauma surgeon and professor of surgery. His commitment to providing surgical care for the poor and underserved in Cali, Colombia is an inspiration to his students, residents, and colleagues.

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Correspondence to Ramiro Manzano-Nunez.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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The protocol for this study was approved by the Institutional Review Board at both Hospital Universitario del Valle (HUV) and Universidad del Valle (Protocol Number Approval: 008-2016).

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Gonzalez-Hadad, A., García, A.F., Serna, J.J. et al. The Role of Ultrasound for Detecting Occult Penetrating Cardiac Wounds in Hemodynamically Stable Patients. World J Surg (2020) doi:10.1007/s00268-020-05376-7

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