Worldwide medical and scientific journal for animal health professionals

Issue number 25.3 Other Scientific

Thoracic trauma

Published 21/04/2021

Written by Manuel Jiménez Peláez and Lucía Vicens Zanoguera

Also available in Français , Deutsch , Italiano and Español

Animals with thoracic trauma frequently present in small animal clinics and should always be treated as an emergency. Trauma is often as a result of traffic accidents (11-40% of cases) and many patients will also have fractures (20-60% of cases). 

Lateral radiograph illustrating a lead buckshot pellet in the myocardium of a cat.

Key points

Thoracic trauma cases are frequently seen in small animal clinics and should always be treated as an emergency.


Pneumothorax must be considered a possibility for all thoracic trauma patients until proven otherwise.


Bilateral thoracocentesis can be both diagnostic and therapeutic in pneumothorax cases, and must be carried out before radiography is attempted.


Hemothorax is rare in animals, but significant blood loss into the pleural cavity can occur following trauma.


Most cases of hemothorax secondary to closed trauma do not need surgery and can be treated conservatively.


Bites to the thorax can be very problematic; even if there is no skin perforation, some bites can cause massive internal damage. Surgical exploration of all bite wounds is mandatory.


The intense pain from fractured ribs, along with any lung damage, contributes to hypoventilation; good pain management is vital in these patients.


Introduction

Animals with thoracic trauma frequently present in small animal clinics and should always be treated as an emergency. Trauma is often as a result of traffic accidents (11-40% of cases 1) and many patients will also have fractures (20-60% of cases 2 3). Other than traffic accidents and other blunt trauma such as kicks, the most common etiologies are animal bites and penetrating injuries from impaling, knives, firearms, etc. However many patients with thoracic injuries may not show signs and/or lesions at the time of admission, although signs can appear and progress 24-48 hours following the incident.

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