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Emerg Radiol. 2016 Aug;23(4):417-9. doi: 10.1007/s10140-016-1413-2. Epub 2016 Jun 1.

The floating cardiac fat pad-sign of occult pneumothorax.

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Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging, Yale New Haven Hospital, New Haven, CT, USA.
Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging, Yale New Haven Hospital, New Haven, CT, USA.


Pneumothoraces are a possible sequela of chest trauma with potential morbidity and mortality if not recognized and treated promptly. A portable supine chest radiograph is frequently the first radiologic study performed in the setting of trauma. While large pneumothoraces can be readily recognized on these radiographs, smaller pneumothoraces are missed in up to 15 % of trauma patients. There are many radiographic signs of occult pneumothoraces, and we are presenting a new radiographic sign of occult pneumothorax. The floating cardiac fat pad sign occurs when pleural air collects anteriorly and superiorly in the most non-dependent portion of the chest lifting the pericardial fat pad off the diaphragm. Lung markings are still seen surrounding the pericardial fat pad due to the inflated lower lobe of the lung resting dependently. Rapid and accurate identification of pneumothoraces is critical but often difficult on chest radiographs. Although there are many existing radiographic signs for identification of pneumothorax, prospective identification of small pneumothoraces is still relatively poor. Here, we describe an additional sign which aides in the detection of pneumothoraces, the floating cardiac fat pad. When present, this should prompt further evaluation with chest CT or upright chest radiograph.


Floating cardiac fat pad; Occult pneumothorax; Pneumothorax; Trauma

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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