It is understood that penetrating cardiac trauma is a highly lethal injury and those surviving to hospital have an overall mortality approaching 80%. Reported mortality figures vary widely and are extremely dependent on mechanism of wounding, cardiac chambers involved and possibly the presence of cardiac tamponade. Despite significant advances in prehospital care, operative techniques, and intensive care management, the mortality has not changed over several decades. This article will review the anatomic regions of concern for a cardiac injury, clinical presentation, and physical findings. The need for an expeditious evaluation and modalities available including, plain radiographs, sub-xiphoid window, and echocardiography will be considered. Options for surgical exposure, technical details of repairing cardiac injuries, and special circumstances such as injury adjacent to a coronary artery and intra-cardiac shunts are discussed in detail. Outcome data and future directions in managing this challenging injury are also examined.
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