An autopsy case review of 142 nonpenetrating (Blunt) injuries of the aorta

John D. Feczko, Lori Lynch, John E. Pless, Michael A. Clark, Joni Mc Clain, Dean Hawley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

178 Scopus citations


This study retrospectively reviewed 142 fatal cases of aortic laceration. Data were collected from the autopsy reports (including toxicology results) and included the circumstances of the the injury. In the case of automobile crashes this included the direction of impact, time of day, and vehicular damage. Seventy percent of the victims were men with a mean age of 37.5 years; 30% were women with a mean age of 46 years. Thirty-five percent of the 142 victims had elevated blood alcohol levels. Fifty-four percent of the lacerations were located at the classic site (the isthmus). The majority of the aortic lacerations (102) were sustained in automobile crashes. Of these, 42% were broadside collisions and 58% were head-on collisions. Seventy- three percent and 67% of the victims in broadside and head-on collisions, respectively, had aortic lacerations at the classic site. The results suggest that the pathogenesis of aortic rupture involves a lateral oblique compression impact to the chest, which causes thoracic mediastinal structures to shift and deflect the aortic arch, resulting in severe shearing and stretching at the isthmus. The use of seat belts and air bags may reduce the number of aortic injuries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)846-849
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Trauma - Injury, Infection and Critical Care
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1992
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine

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