What is the prevalence of hemothorax?

Updated: Jul 13, 2020
  • Author: Mary C Mancini, MD, PhD, MMM; Chief Editor: Jeffrey C Milliken, MD  more...
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Quantifying the frequency of hemothorax in the general population is difficult. A very small hemothorax can be associated with a single rib fracture and may go undetected or require no treatment. Because most major hemothoraces are related to trauma, a rough estimate of their occurrence may be gleaned from trauma statistics.

Approximately 150,000 deaths occur from trauma each year. Approximately three times this number of individuals are permanently disabled because of trauma, and the majority of this combined group have sustained multiple trauma. Chest injuries occur in approximately 60% of multiple-trauma cases; therefore, a rough estimate of the occurrence of hemothorax related to trauma in the United States approaches 300,000 cases per year. [26]

In a 34-month period at a large level-1 trauma center, 2086 children younger than 15 years were admitted with blunt or penetrating trauma; 104 (4.4%) had thoracic trauma. [27] Of the patients with thoracic trauma, 15 had hemopneumothorax (26.7% mortality), and 14 had hemothorax (57.1% mortality). Many of these patients had other severe extrathoracic injuries. Nontraumatic hemothorax carries a much lower mortality.

In another series of children with penetrating chest injuries (ie, stab or gunshot wounds), the morbidity was 8.51% (8 of 94). [28] Complications included atelectasis (3), intrathoracic hematoma (3), wound infection (3), pneumonia (2), air leak for more than 5 days (2), and septicemia (1). Note that these statistics apply only to traumatic hemothorax.

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