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Crit Care. 2009;13(6):R178. doi: 10.1186/cc8160. Epub 2009 Nov 6.

Management of severe crush injury in a front-line tent ICU after 2008 Wenchuan earthquake in China: an experience with 32 cases.

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Emergency Department, Changzheng Hospital, Second Military Medical University, Shanghai 200003, China.



The experience on management of crush injury after a devastating earthquake is lacking, and there are even less reports on the front-line critical care of these patients. A front-line intensive care unit (ICU) was set up in a tent after the disastrous Wenchuan earthquake (May, 12, 2008, China), where 32 patients suffering from crush injury were treated from May 12 to May 26. This study summarized our experience on management of 32 crush injury patients in a front-line tent ICU.


We retrospectively analyzed the clinical data of 32 crush injury patients treated in our frontline tent ICU. Using limited equipment, we observed the arterial blood gas parameters, blood routine, alanine aminotransferase, lactate dehydrogenase, creatine kinase, creatinine, blood urea nitrogen, and urine protein of patients. We also closely watched for changes in crush injury symptoms, urine output, and the dangerous complications of crush injury.


Eighteen of the 32 patients developed traumatic shock, 9 had acute renal failure, 6 had acute heart failure, 2 had stress ulcers and 4 had multiple organ dysfunction syndrome (MODS). The symptoms of 17 patients met the criteria of crush syndrome; hemodialysis and prompt surgical intervention were given to them when necessary. Prompt treatment in our tent ICU improved the symptoms of patients to different degrees. The limb distension and sensory dysfunction were improved and the urine output was increased or even restored to the normal level in some patients. Serological parameters were improved in most patients after admission. Five (15.63%) patients underwent amputation due to severe infection in our group. Six (18.75%) patients died, 4 due to MODS and 2 due to acute renal failure.


Severe crushing injuries and life-threatening complications are major causes of death after major disasters like earthquakes. Prompt treatment and close monitoring of the severe complications are of great importance in saving patients' lives. Establishment of a well-equipped front-line ICU close to the epicentre of the earthquake allows for prompt on the spot rescue of critical patients with crush injury, greatly decreasing the mortality rate and complications and avoiding amputation. There should be sufficient equipment to meet the needs of more patients.

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