Pediatric thoracic trauma in Iraq and Afghanistan

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Military Medicine








Afghanistan; Iraq; mortality; Pediatric thoracic trauma


Introduction: The objective of this study is to review available data on pediatric thoracic trauma seen at U.S. military treatment facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan and describe the scope of injuries, patterns seen, and associated mortality. The results were compared with adults injured in Iraq and Afghanistan and other reports of pediatric thoracic trauma in the literature. Materials and Methods: The investigators received approval from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences' institutional review board before the study. The Joint Theatre Trauma Registry was queried for all patients with an ICD-9 code for thoracic trauma. Two-tailed Student's t-test, Mann-Whitney rank sum, χ2, ANOVA, or multiple logistic regression was used as indicated. Results: There were 955 patients under the age of 18 yr, just over 12% of all thoracic trauma. Penetrating injuries were common (73.6%), including gunshot wounds. The most common pediatric diagnoses were contusions (45%), pneumothorax (40%), and rib and/or sternal fractures (18%). The overall mortality for children was 15.2% compared with 13.8% and 9% for civilian adults and Coalition members with thoracic trauma, respectively. Mortality was inversely related to age among pediatric patients. Children under 2 yr of age had the highest mortality (25.1%). Patients under 12 yr of age were more likely to die than those between 12 and 18 (OR 2.02, 95% CI 1.27-3.22) yr. Thoracic vascular injuries and cardiac injuries resulted in the highest mortality among pediatric patients. The presence of a hemothorax was independently associated with an increased risk for mortality (OR 1.78, 95% CI 1.06-2.99) as was a concomitant head injury (OR 2.17, 95% CI 1.33-3.54). There was a 2.7% incidence of burns among pediatric patients with a high associated mortality (46.2%). Nearly one-half of all the children identified required a transfusion (47%). Conclusion: Penetrating injuries predominated and these children commonly required a transfusion. Mortality was inversely related to age. Children with a hemothorax or a concomitant head injury had significant increases in mortality. Children with thoracic injury as the result of a burn suffered the highest mortality.