Transmediastinal gunshot wounds: A prospective study

Barry M. Renz, Raymond A. Cava, David V. Feliciano, Grace S. Rozycki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Objective: To evaluate admission systolic blood pressure (SBP) in the emergency center (EC) as a means by which patients with transmediastinal gunshot wounds (TM-GSWs) can be triaged to the operating room versus further diagnostic evaluation. Methods: A prospective case series presenting concurrent data collected for 68 consecutive patients with TM-GSWs admitted to one urban trauma center over a 4.5-year period. For purposes of analysis, patients were assigned to the following groups based on SBP in the EC: group I, SBP > 100 mm Hg; group II, SBP from 60 to 100 mm Hg; group III, SBP < 60 mm Hg. Results: The management and outcomes of 68 patients with a mean age of 29 years were evaluated. For patients in group I (n = 20), TM-GSW was diagnosed by findings on x-ray film for 15 patients (75%), at physical examination for 4 patients (20%), and at operation for 1 patient (5%). Indications for immediate operation were found in five patients (25%), whereas further diagnostic evaluation prompted operation for three additional patients. Only one patient developed persistent hypotension from neurogenic shock. There were two deaths from late complications. In patients in group II (n = 16), TM-GSW was diagnosed by findings on x-ray film for 9 patients (56%), at physical examination for 5 patients (31%), and at operation for 2 patients (13%). Six patients with persistent hypotension had indications for immediate operation, whereas further diagnostic evaluation in the remaining patients, who became hemodynamically normal during resuscitation, prompted operation in an additional two patients. There were two intraoperative deaths. For the patients in group III (n = 32), six patients with signs of life underwent immediate operation with one intraoperative death, seventeen patients required EC thoracotomy with 100% mortality, and nine patients were pronounced dead in the EC without an attempt at operation. Conclusion: The diagnosis of TM-GSW for patients in groups I and II is confirmed by finding at physical examination and on chest x-ray films in 90% of cases. In the absence of obvious bleeding, patients with TM-GSWs and SBP > 100 mm Hg may safely undergo further diagnostic evaluation. Sixty percent of such patients did not require an operation. All patients with TM-GSWs and SBP < 60 mm Hg (group III) require immediate operation. For patients with TM-GSWs, SBP from 60 to 100 mm Hg (group II), and without obvious bleeding, it is the response to resuscitation and the results of further diagnostic evaluation that determine the need for operation. Fifty percent of such patients did not require operation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)416-422
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Trauma - Injury, Infection and Critical Care
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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