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J Am Coll Surg. 1997 Sep;185(3):229-33.

Pulmonary contusion: are children different?

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Department of Surgery, University of Texas-Houston Medical School, 77030, USA.



Pulmonary contusion (PC) is a common sequelae of blunt trauma in adults and children; previous reports suggest that children have more favorable outcomes because of differences in mechanisms of injury, associated injury, and physiologic response. Our objective was to determine whether children who sustain PC have different outcomes compared with similarly injured adults.


Our Level I Trauma Registry was reviewed for a 4-year period and identified 251 consecutive patients who sustained PC. Their charts were reviewed retrospectively for demographics, injury mechanism, injury severity scores, associated injuries, and outcomes (measured by the need for intubation, ventilation days, pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and death). Data are expressed as the mean +/- SEM. The Student's t-test was used to compare the groups. A p value less than 0.05 was considered significant.


Of the study patients, 41 (16%) were children (ages 2-16, mean 10 years) and 210 (84%) were adults (ages 17-80, mean 34 years). The most common injury mechanisms in children were motor vehicle accidents (56%) and auto-pedestrian accidents (39%), but in adults, motor vehicle accidents (80%, p = 0.02) predominated. Injury severity score was not significantly different between groups (children, 26 +/- 2 and adults 25 +/- 1). Similarly, the incidence of associated injuries was not different between children and adults: head 78% versus 62%, abdomen 59% versus 43%, and skeletal fractures 41% versus 29%, respectively. Neither need for intubation, ventilator days, pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, or death differed significantly between groups.


Although children and adults differ in regard to injury mechanism, their overall injury severity, associated injuries, and outcomes are quite similar. Thus, contrary to previous reports, children do not have a more favorable outcome after PC.

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