Document Type : Original Article


Department of General and Thoracic Surgery, University Hospital “SS. Annunziata” , Chieti, Italy


Objective: Thoracic trauma may be a life-threatening condition. Flail chest is a severe chest injury with high mortality rates. Surgery is not frequently performed and, in Literature, data are controversial. The authors report their experience in the treatment of flail chest by an extracortical internal-external stabilization technique with Kirshner’s wires (K-wires).

Methods: From 2010 to 2015, 137 trauma patients (109 males and 28 females) with an average age of 58.89 ±19.74 years were observed. Seventeen (12.41%) patients presented a flail chest and of these, 13 (9.49%) with an anterior one. All flail chest patients underwent early chest wall surgical stabilization (within 48 hours from the injury).

Results: In the general population, an overall morbidity of 21.9% (n = 30 of 137) and a 30-day mortality rate of 5.1% (n = 7 of 137) were observed. By clustering the population according to the treatment (medical or interventional vs surgical), significant statistically differences between the two cohorts were found in morbidity (12.65% vs. 34.48%, P = 0.002) and mortality rates (1.28% vs. 10.34%, P = 0.017). In patients undergoing chest wall surgical stabilization, with an average Injury Severity Score of 28.3 ± 5.2 and Abbreviated Injury Score (AIS) of 8.4 ± 1.7, an overall morbidity rate of 52.9% (n = 9) and a mortality rate of 17.6% (n = 3) were found. Post-surgical device removal, in local anesthesia or mild sedation, was performed 42.8 ± 2.9 days after chest wall stabilization and no cases of wound infection, dislodgment of the wires or osteosynthesis failure were reported. Moreover, in these patients, an early postoperative improvement in pulmonary ventilation (ΔpaO2 and ΔpCO2: +9.49 and -5.05, respectively) was reported.

Conclusion: Surgical indication for the treatment of flail chest remains controversial and debated both due to an inadequate training and the absence of comparative prospective studies between various strategies. Our technique for the surgical treatment of the anterior flail chest seems to be anachronistic, but the aspects described, both in terms of technical features and of outcome and benefits (health, economic), allow to evaluate the effectiveness of this approach.


Main Subjects

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