Chest trauma is a major contributor to injury morbidity and mortality, and understanding trends is a crucial part of addressing this burden in low- and middle-income countries. This study reports the characteristics and emergency department (ED) management of chest trauma patients presenting to Rwanda’s national teaching hospital in Kigali.
This descriptive analysis included a convenience sample of patients presenting to a single tertiary hospital ED with chest trauma from June to December 2017. Demographic data were collected as well as injury mechanism, thoracic and associated injuries, types of imaging obtained, and treatments performed. Chart review was conducted seven days post-admission to follow up on outcomes and additional diagnoses and interventions. Incidences were calculated with Microsoft Excel.
Among the 62 patients included in this study, 74% were male, and mean age was 35 years. Most patients were injured in road traffic crashes (RTCs) (68%). Common chest injuries included lung contusions (79% of cases), rib fractures (44%), and pneumothoraces (37%). Head trauma was a frequent concurrent extra-thoracic injury (61%). Diagnostic imaging primarily included E-FAST ultrasound (92%) and chest x-ray (98%). The most common therapies included painkillers (100%), intravenous fluids (89%), and non-invasive oxygen (63%), while 29% underwent invasive intervention in the form of thoracostomy. The majority of patients were admitted (81%). Pneumonia was the most common complication to occur in the first seven days (32% of admitted patients). Ultimately, 40% of patients were discharged home within seven days of presentation, 50% remained hospitalized, and 5% died.
This study on the epidemiology of chest trauma in Rwanda can guide injury prevention and medical training priorities. Efforts should target prevention in young males and those involved in RTCs. ED physicians in Rwanda need to be prepared to diagnose and treat a variety of chest injuries with invasive and noninvasive means.