Thoracic aorta injury

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Thoracic aorta injury
Aorta Anatomy.jpg
Anatomy of the thoracic aorta

Injury of the thoracic aorta refers to any injury which affects the portion of the aorta which lies within the chest cavity. Injuries of the thoracic aorta are usually the result of physical trauma; however, they can also be the result of a pathological process. The main causes of this injury are deceleration (such as a car accident) and crush injuries.

Aorta largest artery in the body

The aorta is the main and largest artery in the human body, originating from the left ventricle of the heart and extending down to the abdomen, where it splits into two smaller arteries. The aorta distributes oxygenated blood to all parts of the body through the systemic circulation.

Acceleration rate at which the velocity of a body changes with time, and the direction in which that change is acting

In physics, acceleration is the rate of change of velocity of an object with respect to time. An object's acceleration is the net result of all forces acting on the object, as described by Newton's Second Law. The SI unit for acceleration is metre per second squared (m⋅s−2). Accelerations are vector quantities and add according to the parallelogram law. The vector of the net force acting on a body has the same direction as the vector of the body's acceleration, and its magnitude is proportional to the magnitude of the acceleration, with the object's mass as proportionality constant.

A crush injury is injury by an object that causes compression of the body. This form of injury is rare in normal civilian practice, but are common following a natural disaster. Other causes include industrial accidents, road traffic collisions, building collapse, accidents involving heavy plant, disaster relief or terrorist incidents.



Injuries to the aorta are usually the result of trauma, such as deceleration and crush injuries. Deceleration injuries almost always occur during high speed impacts, such as those in motor vehicle crashes and falls from a substantial height. Several mechanical processes can occur and are reflected in the injury itself. A more recently proposed mechanism is that the aorta can be compressed between bony structures (such as the manubrium, clavicle, and first rib) and the spine. In the ascending aorta (the portion of the aorta which is almost vertical), one mechanism of injury is torsion (a two-way twisting). [1]

Clavicle plain bone of short length that serves as a strut between the scapula and the sternum

The clavicle or collarbone is a long bone that serves as a strut between the shoulder blade and the sternum or breastbone. There are two clavicles, one on the left and one on the right. The clavicle is the only long bone in the body that lies horizontally. Together with the shoulder blade it makes up the shoulder girdle. It is a touchable bone and in people who have less fat in this region, the location of the bone is clearly visible, as it creates a bulge in the skin. It receives its name from the Latin: clavicula because the bone rotates along its axis like a key when the shoulder is abducted. The clavicle is the most commonly fractured bone. It can easily be fractured due to impacts to the shoulder from the force of falling on outstretched arms or by a direct hit.

Rib long curved bone surrounding the chest

In vertebrate anatomy, ribs are the long curved bones which form the rib cage, part of the axial skeleton. In most tetrapods, ribs surround the chest, enabling the lungs to expand and thus facilitate breathing by expanding the chest cavity. They serve to protect the lungs, heart, and other internal organs of the thorax. In some animals, especially snakes, ribs may provide support and protection for the entire body.

Vertebral column bony structure found in vertebrates

The vertebral column, also known as the backbone or spine, is part of the axial skeleton. The vertebral column is the defining characteristic of a vertebrate in which the notochord found in all chordates has been replaced by a segmented series of bone: vertebrae separated by intervertebral discs. The vertebral column houses the spinal canal, a cavity that encloses and protects the spinal cord.



There are inconsistencies in the terminology of aortic injury. There are several terms which are interchangeably used to describe injury to the aorta such as tear, laceration, transection, and rupture. Laceration is used as a term for the consequence of a tear, whereas a transection is a section across an axis or cross section. For all intents and purposes, the latter is used when a tear occurs across all or nearly all of the circumference of the aorta. Rupture is defined as a forcible disruption of tissue. Some disagree with the usage of rupture as they believe it implies that a tear is incompatible with life; however, the term accurately gauges the severity of tears in the aorta. A rupture can be either complete or partial, and can be classified further by the position of the tear. [1]

Cross section (geometry) the intersection of a body in 3D space with a plane, or the analog in higher-dimensional space. Cutting an object into slices creates many parallel cross sections. A cross section of 3D space that is parallel to two of the axes is a contour line

In geometry and science, a cross section is the non-empty intersection of a solid body in three-dimensional space with a plane, or the analog in higher-dimensional spaces. Cutting an object into slices creates many parallel cross sections. The boundary of a cross section in three-dimensional space that is parallel to two of the axes, that is, parallel to the plane determined by these axes, is a sometimes referred to as a contour line; for example, if a plane cuts through mountains of a raised-relief map parallel to the ground, the result is a contour line in two-dimensional space showing points on the surface of the mountains of equal elevation.

In geometry, the circumference of a circle is the (linear) distance around it. That is, the circumference would be the length of the circle if it were opened up and straightened out to a line segment. Since a circle is the edge (boundary) of a disk, circumference is a special case of perimeter. The perimeter is the length around any closed figure and is the term used for most figures excepting the circle and some circular-like figures such as ellipses. Informally, "circumference" may also refer to the edge itself rather than to the length of the edge.

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Thorax frontal part of an animals body, between its head and abdomen

The thorax or chest is a part of the anatomy of humans and various other animals located between the neck and the abdomen. The thorax includes the thoracic cavity and the thoracic wall. It contains organs including the heart, lungs, and thymus gland, as well as muscles and various other internal structures. Many diseases may affect the chest, and one of the most common symptoms is chest pain.

Aortic dissection injury to the innermost layer of the aorta allows blood to flow between the layers of the aortic wall, forcing the layers apart

Aortic dissection (AD) occurs when an injury to the innermost layer of the aorta allows blood to flow between the layers of the aortic wall, forcing the layers apart. In most cases, this is associated with a sudden onset of severe chest or back pain, often described as "tearing" in character. Also, vomiting, sweating, and lightheadedness may occur. Other symptoms may result from decreased blood supply to other organs, such as stroke or mesenteric ischemia. Aortic dissection can quickly lead to death from not enough blood flow to the heart or complete rupture of the aorta.

Subdural hematoma

A subdural hematoma (SDH), is a type of hematoma, usually associated with traumatic brain injury. Blood gathers between the inner layer of the dura mater and the arachnoid mater. Usually resulting from tears in bridging veins which cross the subdural space, subdural hemorrhages may cause an increase in intracranial pressure (ICP), which can cause compression of and damage to delicate brain tissue. Subdural hematomas are often life-threatening when acute. Chronic subdural hematomas, however, have a better prognosis if properly managed.

Aortic aneurysm orta to greater than 1.5 times normal size.

An aortic aneurysm is an enlargement (dilation) of the aorta to greater than 1.5 times normal size. They usually cause no symptoms except when ruptured. Occasionally, there may be abdominal, back, or leg pain.

Thoracic aortic aneurysm aortic aneurysm that is located in the thoracic aorta

A thoracic aortic aneurysm is an aortic aneurysm that presents primarily in the thorax.

Intracranial hemorrhage hemorrhage, or bleeding, within the skull

Intracranial hemorrhage (ICH), also known as intracranial bleed, is bleeding within the skull. Subtypes are intracerebral bleeds, subarachnoid bleeds, epidural bleeds, and subdural bleeds.

Hemothorax type of pleural effusion in which blood accumulates in the pleural cavity

A hemothorax is a type of pleural effusion in which blood accumulates in the pleural cavity. The term is from hemo-(blood) + thorax (chest). This excess fluid can interfere with normal breathing by limiting the expansion of the lungs. It is defined as a pleural effusion with a hematocrit of at least 50% the hematocrit value of the affected person's blood. Symptoms include chest pain, difficulty breathing, and rapid breathing. There can be symptoms of shock due to blood loss. It is usually caused by an injury, but can also be caused by an aortic dissection, or a collapsed lung. It is diagnosed by a chest X-ray, ultrasound, or CT scan. It is treated by inserting a chest tube and draining the blood. It may require surgery if bleeding fails to stop. If treated, prognosis is usually good, as long as it is not caused by an aortic rupture. If complications arise, they can be treated, like waiting for fibrothorax, drainage of empyema, and so on. Complications usually do not affect the prognosis drastically. Hemothorax may be delayed as long as a month after a chest injury, the longest reported is 44 days.

Blunt trauma physical trauma caused to a body part, either by impact, injury or physical attack

Blunt trauma is physical trauma to a body part, either by impact, injury or physical attack. The latter is usually referred to as blunt force trauma. Blunt trauma is the initial trauma, from which develops more specific types such as contusions, abrasions, lacerations, and/or bone fractures. Blunt trauma is contrasted with penetrating trauma, in which an object such as a projectile or knife enters the body.

Chest injury

A chest injury, also known as chest trauma, is any form of physical injury to the chest including the ribs, heart and lungs. Chest injuries account for 25% of all deaths from traumatic injury. Typically chest injuries are caused by blunt mechanisms such as motor vehicle collisions or penetrating mechanisms such as stabbings.

Blunt splenic trauma occurs when a significant impact to the spleen from some outside source damages or ruptures the spleen. Treatment varies depending on severity, but often consists of embolism or splenectomy.

Traumatic aortic rupture life-threatening injury to the aorta

Traumatic aortic rupture, also called traumatic aortic disruption or transection, is a condition in which the aorta, the largest artery in the body, is torn or ruptured as a result of trauma to the body. The condition is frequently fatal due to the profuse bleeding that results from the rupture. Since the aorta branches directly from the heart to supply blood to the rest of the body, the pressure within it is very great, and blood may be pumped out of a tear in the blood vessel very rapidly. This can quickly result in shock and death. Thus traumatic aortic rupture is a common killer in automotive accidents and other traumas, with up to 18% of deaths that occur in automobile collisions being related to the injury. In fact, aortic disruption due to blunt chest trauma is the second leading cause of injury death behind traumatic brain injury.

Penetrating trauma type of injury

Penetrating trauma is an injury that occurs when an object pierces the skin and enters a tissue of the body, creating an open wound. In blunt, or non-penetrating trauma, there may be an impact, but the skin is not necessarily broken. The penetrating object may remain in the tissues, come back out the way it entered, or pass through the tissues and exit from another area. An injury in which an object enters the body or a structure and passes all the way through is called a perforating injury, while penetrating trauma implies that the object does not pass through. Perforating trauma is associated with an entrance wound and an often larger exit wound.

Pulmonary contusion

A pulmonary contusion, also known as lung contusion, is a bruise of the lung, caused by chest trauma. As a result of damage to capillaries, blood and other fluids accumulate in the lung tissue. The excess fluid interferes with gas exchange, potentially leading to inadequate oxygen levels (hypoxia). Unlike pulmonary laceration, another type of lung injury, pulmonary contusion does not involve a cut or tear of the lung tissue.

Pulmonary laceration chest injury in which lung tissue is torn or cut

A pulmonary laceration is a chest injury in which lung tissue is torn or cut. An injury that is potentially more serious than pulmonary contusion, pulmonary laceration involves disruption of the architecture of the lung, while pulmonary contusion does not. Pulmonary laceration is commonly caused by penetrating trauma but may also result from forces involved in blunt trauma such as shear stress. A cavity filled with blood, air, or both can form. The injury is diagnosed when collections of air or fluid are found on a CT scan of the chest. Surgery may be required to stitch the laceration, to drain blood, or even to remove injured parts of the lung. The injury commonly heals quickly with few problems if it is given proper treatment; however it may be associated with scarring of the lung or other complications.

Focal and diffuse brain injury

Focal and diffuse brain injury are ways to classify brain injury: focal injury occurs in a specific location, while diffuse injury occurs over a more widespread area. It is common for both focal and diffuse damage to occur as the result of the same event; many traumatic brain injuries have aspects of both focal and diffuse injury. Focal injuries are commonly associated with an injury in which the head strikes or is struck by an object; diffuse injuries are more often found in acceleration/deceleration injuries, in which the head does not necessarily contact anything, but brain tissue is damaged because tissue types with varying densities accelerate at different rates. In addition to physical trauma, other types of brain injury, such as stroke, can also produce focal and diffuse injuries. There may be primary and secondary brain injury processes.

Tracheobronchial injury damage to the tracheobronchial tree

Tracheobronchial injury (TBI) is damage to the tracheobronchial tree. It can result from blunt or penetrating trauma to the neck or chest, inhalation of harmful fumes or smoke, or aspiration of liquids or objects.

Abdominal trauma injury to the abdomen

Abdominal trauma is an injury to the abdomen. Signs and symptoms include abdominal pain, tenderness, rigidity, and bruising of the external abdomen. Complications may include blood loss and infection.

Diaphragmatic rupture crack of the diaphragm

Diaphragmatic rupture is a tear of the diaphragm, the muscle across the bottom of the ribcage that plays a crucial role in respiration. Most commonly, acquired diaphragmatic tears result from physical trauma. Diaphragmatic rupture can result from blunt or penetrating trauma and occurs in about 5% of cases of severe blunt trauma to the trunk.

Familial aortic dissection

Familial aortic dissection or FAD refers to the splitting of the wall of the aorta in either the arch, ascending or descending portions. FAD is thought to be passed down as an autosomal dominant disease and once inherited will result in dissection of the aorta, and dissecting aneurysm of the aorta, or rarely aortic or arterial dilation at a young age. Dissection refers to the actual tearing open of the aorta. However, the exact gene(s) involved has not yet been identified. It can occur in the absence of clinical features of Marfan syndrome and of systemic hypertension. Over time this weakness, along with systolic pressure, results in a tear in the aortic intima layer thus allowing blood to enter between the layers of tissue and cause further tearing. Eventually complete rupture of the aorta occurs and the pleural cavity fills with blood. Warning signs include chest pain, ischemia, and hemorrhaging in the chest cavity. This condition, unless found and treated early, usually results in death. Immediate surgery is the best treatment in most cases. FAD is not to be confused with PAU and IMH, both of which present in ways similar to that of familial aortic dissection.


  1. 1 2 Creasy JD, Chiles C, Routh WD, Dyer RB (1997). "Overview of traumatic injury of the thoracic aorta". Radiographics. 17 (1): 27–45. PMID   9017797 . Retrieved 2008-10-27.
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