NYMC Faculty Publications

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Second Department



INTRODUCTION: Work site injuries involving high projectile tools such as nail guns can lead to catastrophic injuries. Generally, penetrating cardiac injuries are associated with a high mortality rate.

PRESENTATION OF CASE: A construction worker was brought to the emergency room having sustained a nail gun injury to the chest. The patient was hypotensive, tachycardic with prominent jugular venous distention, and had a profound lactic acidosis. Bedside ultrasound confirmed the presence of pericardial fluid. Pericardiocentesis was performed twice using a central venous catheter inserted into the pericardial space, resulting in improvement in the patient's hemodynamics. Thereafter he underwent left anterolateral thoracotomy and repair of a right atrial laceration. He recovered uneventfully.

DISCUSSION: Penetrating cardiac injuries caused by nail guns, although rare, have been previously described. However, pericardiocentesis, while retaining a role in the management of medical causes of cardiac tamponade, has been reported only sporadically in the setting of trauma. We report a rare case of penetrating nail gun injury to the heart where pericardiocentesis was used as a temporizing measure to stabilize the patient in preparation for definitive but timely operative intervention.

CONCLUSION: We propose awareness that percardiocentesis can serve as a temporary life saving measure in the setting of trauma, particularly as a bridge to definitive therapy. To our knowledge, this represents the first reported case of catheter pericardiocentesis used to stabilize a patient until definitive repair of a penetrating cardiac injury caused by a nail gun.

Publisher's Statement

Originally published in International Journal of Surgery Case Reports. Licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijscr.2016.04.022