The indications for thoracic aortography in the blunt chest trauma patient remain controversial. Clinical and radiographic findings in 102 patients seen at a Level I Trauma Center over a five-year period were reviewed to evaluate criteria predictive of major thoracic vascular injury. Five patients had positive aortograms. There was no significant correlation with Revised Trauma Score, symptoms, or associated thoracic injuries, although patients with aortic rupture did have a higher incidence of extrathoracic injuries (P less than 0.001). A blinded review of admitting chest radiographs for five major findings (widened mediastinum, aortic arch abnormalities, aortopulmonary window opacification, left apical capping, and right apical capping) revealed a significant difference between patients with and without aortic injury (0.98 +/- 1.24 findings in the negative aortogram group and 3.00 +/- 0.71 findings in the positive aortogram group) (P less than 0.001). All patients with aortic rupture had at least two major positive findings on admitting chest radiographs. Admission chest x-ray evidence of at least one major abnormality is a safe method of screening blunt chest trauma patients for thoracic aortography.
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