Tracheobronchial Injury - Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms vary depending on what part of the tracheobronchial tree is injured and how severely it is damaged. There are no direct signs of TBI, but certain signs suggest the injury and raise a clinician's suspicion that it has occurred. Many of the signs and symptoms are also present in injuries with similar injury mechanisms such as pneumothorax. Dyspnea and respiratory distress are found in 76–100% of people with TBI, and coughing up blood has been found in up to 25%. However, isolated TBI does not usually cause profuse bleeding; if such bleeding is observed it is likely to be due to another injury such as a ruptured large blood vessel. The patient may exhibit dysphonia or have diminished breath sounds, and rapid breathing is common. Coughing may be present, and stridor, an abnormal, high-pitched breath sound indicating obstruction of the upper airway can also occur.

Damage to the airways can cause subcutaneous emphysema (air trapped in the subcutaneous tissue of the skin) in the abdomen, chest, neck, and head. Subcutaneous emphysema, present in up to 85% of people with TBI, is particularly indicative of the injury when it is only in the neck. Air is trapped in the chest cavity outside the lungs (pneumothorax) in about 70% of TBI. Especially strong evidence that TBI has occurred is failure of a pneumothorax to resolve even when a chest tube is placed to rid the chest cavity of the air; it shows that air is continually leaking into the chest cavity from the site of the tear. Air can also be trapped in the mediastinum, the center of the chest cavity (pneumomediastinum). If air escapes from a penetrating injury to the neck, a definite diagnosis of TBI can be made. Hamman's sign, a sound of crackling that occurs in time with the heartbeat, may also accompany TBI.

Read more about this topic:  Tracheobronchial Injury

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