Merck Manual

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Pulmonary Contusion


Thomas G. Weiser

, MD, MPH, Stanford University School of Medicine

Last full review/revision May 2020| Content last modified May 2020
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Pulmonary contusion is trauma-induced lung hemorrhage and edema without laceration.

Symptoms of pulmonary contusion include pain (mainly due to injury to the overlying chest wall) and sometimes dyspnea. The chest wall is tender; other physical findings are those of any associated injuries.

Diagnosis of Pulmonary Contusion

  • Imaging, typically chest x-ray

Pulmonary contusion should be suspected when respiratory distress develops after chest trauma, particularly when symptoms worsen gradually. Chest x-ray is typically done, along with pulse oximetry. Contusions cause opacification of affected lung tissue on imaging, but opacification may not be apparent for 24 to 48 hours because opacification increases with time. CT is highly sensitive but is usually done only when other injuries are also under consideration.

Patients should be monitored for respiratory failure with serial clinical assessments and pulse oximetry. If hypoxemia or dyspnea is noted, capnometry or arterial blood gas measurement is indicated.

Treatment of Pulmonary Contusion

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