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Open Access Open Badges Case report

Traumatic pericardial rupture with skeletonized phrenic nerve

Zain Khalpey1*, Taufiek K Rajab1, Jan D Schmitto12 and Philipp C Camp1

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Cardiac Surgery, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA

2 Department of Cardiac, Thoracic, Transplantation and Vascular Surgery, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany

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Journal of Cardiothoracic Surgery 2011, 6:6  doi:10.1186/1749-8090-6-6

Published: 17 January 2011



Traumatic pericardial rupture is a rare presentation. Pericardial rupture itself is asymptomatic unless complicated by either hemorrhage or herniation of the heart through the defect. Following diagnosis surgical repair of the pericardium is indicated because cardiac herniation may result in vascular collapse and sudden death.


Here we present a case of traumatic, non-herniated pericardial rupture with complete skeletonization of the phrenic nerve.

Case report

An 18-year-old healthy male suffered multi-trauma after falling 50 feet onto concrete. The patient could not be stabilized despite exploratory laparotomy with splenectomy, IR embolization and packing for a liver laceration. Right posterolateral thoracotomy revealed a ruptured pericardium with a completely skeletonized phrenic nerve. The pericardium was repaired with a Goretex(R) patch.


A high level of suspicion for pericardial rupture is necessary in all patients with high-velocity thoracic injuries.