Thorac Cardiovasc Surg 2011; 59(1): 45-48
DOI: 10.1055/s-0030-1250597
Original Thoracic

© Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York

Factors Affecting Morbidity and Mortality in Flail Chest: Comparison of Anterior and Lateral Location

D. Kilic1 , A. Findikcioglu1 , S. Akin2 , T. H. Akay1 , E. Kupeli3 , A. Aribogan2 , A. Hatipoglu1
  • 1Department of Thoracic Surgery, Baskent University, Ankara, Turkey
  • 2Department of Anesthesiolgy and Reanimation, Baskent University, Ankara, Turkey
  • 3Department of Pulmonary Diseases, Baskent University, Ankara, Turkey
Further Information

Publication History

received July 14, 2010

Publication Date:
17 January 2011 (online)


Objective: Flail chest is most often accompanied by significant underlying pulmonary parenchymal injuries and may constitute a life-threatening thoracic injury. In this study we evaluated the treatment modalities for flail chest depending on the effect of trauma localization on mortality and morbidity. Methods: Between 2003 and 2008, 23 patients (20 males/3 females) were treated for flail chest. Location of the trauma in the chest wall, mechanical ventilation support, prognosis and injury severity score (ISS) were recorded for all patients. Mechanical ventilation support was given in 14 patients (60.8 %), and 12 of these 14 patients required subsequent tracheostomy. Internal fixation was used in 3 patients. Results: The major cause of flail chest was a car crash in 18 of 23 patients (76 %). Median ISS was 62.8 for all patients. The patients with flail chest who had bilateral costochondral separation (anterior chest location) (group I, n = 10) had a significantly higher ISS than those with single-side posterolateral flail chest (group II, n = 13; ISS: 70/55; p = 0.02). The need for mechanical ventilation support was also higher in the group with bilateral costochondral separation. Morbidity was higher in group I than in group II (p = 0.198), and mortality was also significantly higher in group I (p = 0.08). Patients with a cranial trauma and flail chest had a higher mortality (19 %) than patients with only flail chest (no mortality). The mean ISS was 75 for patients with cranial trauma and flail chest and 55.7 (p = 0.001) for patients with only flail chest. Sepsis and subarachnoid bleeding were the major causes of mortality. The mean ISS was 54.5 for patients under the age of 55 (n = 14) whereas it was 69.4 in those aged 55 and over (n = 9; p = 0.034). Mortality in the older group was also higher (33 % versus 7 %; p = 0.02). Conclusion: Early intubation and mechanical ventilation is of paramount importance in patients with flail chest. However, prolonged mechanical ventilation is associated with a poor outcome. Tracheotomy and frequent flexible bronchoscopy are an effective pulmonary toilet. Advanced age was a major risk factor for flail chest trauma mortality, together with the severity of the injury. When cranial trauma was accompanied by flail chest, mortality and morbidity rates increased. Bilateral costochondral separation also increased the risk of morbidity and the need for mechanical ventilation in patients with flail chest.


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Dr. Dalokay Kilic

Department of Thoracic Surgery
Baskent University Faculty of Medicine
Ankara Teaching and Medical Research Center

5. Sokak No:48, Kat 0

06490, Bahcelievler/Ankara


Phone: +90 31 22 12 90 65

Fax: +90 31 22 12 80 83