Identification of trauma patients at risk of thoracic aortic tear by mechanism of injury

Tristram G. Horton, Stephen M. Cohn, Michael P. Heid, Jeffrey S. Augenstein, Jami C. Bowen, Mark G. McKenney, Robert C. Duncan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Objective: We sought to identify potential measurable on-scene information that would assist clinicians in the identification of patients at risk for thoracic aortic tear (AT) after vehicular trauma. Methods: Data were prospectively collected at the scene of 295 motor vehicle crashes from 1995 to 1999. There were 34 cases (12%) with AT. Scene data consisted of vehicle maximal crush, maximal intrusion into the occupant compartment, change in velocity (Delta V) and principal direction of force. Thoracic aortic injuries were confirmed radiographically or at autopsy. Crash factors were analyzed for correlation with AT by logistic regression. Results: Delta V ≥ 20 mph and near-side impact were the factors having the strongest correlation with thoracic aortic injury. Delta V ≥ 20 mph (n = 32 with AT) had an odds ratio = 6.4, (p < 0.01). Near impact (n = 20 with AT) had an odds ratio = 2.3, (p < 0.05) and intrusion ≥ 15 inches had an odds ratio = 3.2, p < 0.05. The sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy of the presence of near impact, Delta V ≥ 20 mph, or both, were 100%, 34%, and 64%. The positive and negative predictive values were 16% and 100%, respectively. There was no relationship of AT to use of seat belts or airbags. Conclusion: Thoracic aortic injury after vehicular collision can be reliably excluded if near-impact, Delta V ≥ 20 mph, or intrusion ≥ 15 inches are not present. Mechanism of injury in the form of crash scene information may aid clinicians in identifying individuals at risk for thoracic aortic tear after vehicular trauma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1008-1014
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Trauma - Injury, Infection and Critical Care
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Crush
  • Delta V
  • Direction of force
  • Intrusion
  • Mechanism of injury
  • Motor vehicle crash
  • Thoracic aortic tear

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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