Cardiac contusion

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  • Contusion is the most common type of blunt cardiac injury (60-100%) (Other sources cite lower figures of 8-76%[1][2])
  • Range is due to lack of standardized diagnostic criteria.
  • Autopsy shows patchy necrosis and hemorrhage of damaged areas of myocardium and is the "gold standard" for research[1]

Mechanism of injury

  • MVC is common, but crush injuries, CPR and others have also been described.
  • Can occur with decelerations from as little as less than 20mph[2]

Blunt cardiac injury

Spectrum of Blunt Cardiac Injury
  • A spectrum of disease due to blunt trauma to the chest wall
  • Ranges from cardiac contusion to infarction to cardiac rupture and death.[3]
    • Commotio cordis is sudden cardiac arrest resulting from blunt chest trauma, in absence of underlying cardiac disease[4]
    • Up to 20% of all MVC deaths are due to blunt cardiac injury

Clinical Features

Differential Diagnosis

Thoracic Trauma


Diagnosis is difficult due to spectrum of clinical disease and lack of adequate test in the ED

  • Physical exam
    • Majority (75%) of patients will have evidence of chest wall trauma[5]
  • Imaging[5]
    • CXR and CT Chest are neither sensitive nor specific for cardiac contusion, but may show other blunt cardiac injury
    • Echocardiography may be useful - contusion will show localized wall motion abnormality
  • ECG - may be normal or show non-specific abnormalities[5]
    • most common abnormality in order (sinus tachycardia, PVCs, atrial fibrillation)
    • 81–95% of life threatening ventricular arrhythmias and acute cardiac failures occur within the first 24–48 hrs
  • Cardiac enzymes (Troponin, CK-MB)[5]
    • CK-MB is neither sensitive nor specific
    • Troponin is specific for cardiac injury, but not sensitive for cardiac contusion


  • Treatment is generally supportive and based on clinical presentation[5]
  • Do NOT treat arrhythmias prophylactically (increased mortality!)
  • Do NOT give thrombolytics for signs of myocardial infarction (increased mortality)


  • Patients with mild injury, normal ECG, and negative Troponin can likely be discharged after period of observation[5]
  • Admit to telemetry bed for:
    • Hemodynamic instability
    • Abnormal ECG
    • Elevated troponin


  • Generally favorable prognosis
  • Even if patient has minor wall motion abnormality, mild arrhythmia, etc, these usually resolve within 1 day[6]
    • Long-term sequelae are rare in hemodynamically stable patient without significant ECG abnormality
    • Severe cardiac contusion may rarely lead to ventricular remodeling and aneurysm
  • Short tele admit as 81-95% of ventricular dysrhythmias and cardiac failure within 1-2 days after trauma[7]

See Also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Emet M, Saritemur M, Altuntas B, et al. Dual-source computed tomography may define cardiac contusion in patients with blunt chest trauma in ED. Am J Emerg Med. 2015 Jun;33(6):865.e1-3. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2014.12.059.
  2. 2.0 2.1 El-Chami MF, Nicholson W, Helmy T. Blunt cardiac trauma. J Emerg Med. 2008 Aug;35(2):127-33.
  3. El-Menyar A, Al Thani H, Zarour A, Latifi R. Understanding traumatic blunt cardiac injury. Ann Card Anaesth. 2012 Oct-Dec;15(4):287-95. doi: 10.4103/0971-9784.101875.
  4. Yousef R, Carr JA. Blunt cardiac trauma: a review of the current knowledge and management. Ann Thorac Surg. 2014 Sep;98(3):1134-40. doi: 10.1016/j.athoracsur.2014.04.043.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 Sybrandy KC, Cramer MJM, Burgersdijk C. Diagnosing cardiac contusion: old wisdom and new insights. Heart. 2003;89(5):485-489.
  6. Bock JS, Benitez RM. Blunt cardiac injury. Cardiol Clin. 2012 Nov;30(4):545-55. doi: 10.1016/j.ccl.2012.07.001.
  7. K C Sybrandy, M J M Cramer, and C Burgersdijk. Diagnosing cardiac contusion: old wisdom and new insights. Heart. 2003 May; 89(5): 485–489.