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Pulmonary contusions after blunt chest trauma: clinical significance and evaluation of patient management



A pulmonary contusion is an entity defined as alveolar haemorrhage and pulmonary parenchymal destruction after blunt chest trauma. According to the literature, most pulmonary contusions can only be seen on a chest CT. The aim of this study was to evaluate the patients with pulmonary contusions, as well as their management, considering diagnostic and therapeutic options related to their outcomes, since we assumed, based on everyday clinical practice, that an ‘overdiagnosing’ and ‘overtreatment’ attitude towards this injury could be present.

Patients and methods

The research was a retrospective study including 5042 patients admitted to the Department of Traumatology in the Clinical Hospital Centre Osijek, during a 3-year period. The medical data of the patients who suffered pulmonary contusion were evaluated considering significant characteristics, known risk factors, procedures undergone, and outcomes.


During the 3-year period, 2% of all the admitted patients were diagnosed with a pulmonary contusion. In 54% of the cases, the patient suffered polytraumatic injuries. The pulmonary contusion was an isolated injury in 7% of the patients. In 31% of the cases, there was no liquidothorax or pneumothorax (isolated pulmonary contusion). In 89% of the patients the pulmonary contusion was diagnosed using a CT scan. In 68% of the patients there were no interventions regarding the thorax; thoracocentesis was performed in 25% of the cases, and pleural punction in 14% of the cases. 25% of the patients developed respiratory insufficiency and 16% required mechanical ventilation. Regarding isolated pulmonary contusions, respiratory insufficiency was present in 8% of the cases.


We suggest that a pulmonary contusion seen on CT only has limited clinical significance and that the use of CT scans in diagnosing and follow-up of these patients should be re-evaluated. Further prospective and randomised studies should be conducted and the patients should be clinically evaluated, with the administration of supportive and antibiotic therapy, maintaining the fluid balance, the administration of diuretics, supportive oxygen therapy, pulmonary toilet, and physical therapy.

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Correspondence to Z. Požgain.

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Conflict of interest

Požgain Zrinka, Kristek Dalibor, Lovrić Ivan, Kondža Goran, Jelavić Mario, Kocur Josip and Danilović Milijana state that they have no conflict of interest to declare.

Ethical approval

The study was approved by the local ethics committee at the Clinical Hospital Centre Osijek, Osijek University Hospital, and the Faculty of Medicine of the J.J. Strossmayer University of Osijek, Croatia, according to the Helsinki Declaration.

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Požgain, Z., Kristek, D., Lovrić, I. et al. Pulmonary contusions after blunt chest trauma: clinical significance and evaluation of patient management. Eur J Trauma Emerg Surg 44, 773–777 (2018).

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  • Thoracic injuries
  • Thoracic radiography
  • Pneumomediastinum diagnostic
  • Lung injuries