J Chest Surg.  2021 Feb;54(1):59-64. 10.5090/kjtcs.20.126.

Acute Diaphragmatic Injuries Associated with Traumatic Rib Fractures: Experiences of a Major Trauma Centre and the Importance of Intra-Pleural Assessment

  • 1Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, St. George’s Hospital, London, UK


Diaphragmatic injuries following blunt or penetrating thoraco-abdominal trauma are rare, but can be life-threatening. Rib fractures are the most common associated injury in patients with a traumatic diaphragmatic injury (TDI). We hypothesized that the pattern of rib fracture injuries could dictate the likelihood of acute TDIs.
A retrospective study was carried out between April 2014 and October 2018 to analyze patients with TDIs and rib fractures at a major trauma center in London, United Kingdom.
Over the study period, 1,560 patients had rib fractures, of whom 14 had associated diaphragmatic injuries. Left-sided diaphragmatic injuries were found in 8 patients (57%) . A significant proportion of the rib fractures were located posterolaterally (44.9%). The highest frequency of fractures was found in ribs 5–10, which accounted for 74% of all the fractures. Ten patients underwent surgery, of whom 7 were diagnosed with a diaphragmatic injury intraoperatively after video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery assessment of the pleural cavity. Two patients died due to severe injuries of other organs and the remaining 2 patients were managed conservatively.
Our series of patients demonstrates a relationship between significant rib fractures and diaphragmatic injuries in trauma patients, and the diagnostic difficulties in identifying the condition. We found that the location of the rib fractures and the pattern of injury in patients with TDIs were much lower and posterolateral in the chest wall without a preference for laterality. We suggest using a thoracoscope in patients undergoing chest wall surgery post-trauma to aid in diagnosing this condition.


Rib fractures; Trauma; Traumatic diaphragmatic hernia; Video-assisted thoracic surgery
Full Text Links
  • JCS
export Copy
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
Similar articles
Copyright © 2024 by Korean Association of Medical Journal Editors. All rights reserved.     E-mail: koreamed@kamje.or.kr