Login | Users Online: 231  
Home Print this page Email this page Small font sizeDefault font sizeIncrease font size   
Home | About us | Editorial board | Search | Ahead of print | Current Issue | Archives | Submit article | Instructions | Subscribe | Advertise | Contact us

Table of Contents
Year : 2016  |  Volume : 17  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 35-38  

Acute myocardial infarction following right coronary artery dissection due to blunt trauma

1 Department of Surgery, Regional Level I Resource Trauma Center, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, USA
2 Regional Level I Resource Trauma Center, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, USA
3 Department of Research and Innovation, St. Luke's University Health Network, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, USA

Date of Web Publication18-May-2016

Correspondence Address:
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/1995-705X.182646

Rights and Permissions

Despite the frequent occurrence of blunt chest trauma, associated cardiac injuries are relatively rare. The most common presentation of blunt cardiac injury is benign arrhythmia (e.g., sinus tachycardia), followed in decreasing frequency by increasingly severe arrhythmias and finally physically evident injuries to the heart muscle, the conducting system, cardiac valves, and/or coronary vessels. Here we present an unusual case of a patient who sustained a right coronary artery dissection and associated acute myocardial infarction following a motor vehicle crash.

Keywords: Acute electrocardiogram changes, acute myocardial infarction, blunt chest trauma, cardiac catheterization, traumatic coronary artery dissection

How to cite this article:
Mubang RN, Hillman Terzian W T, Cipolla J, Keeney S, Lukaszczyk JJ, Stawicki SP. Acute myocardial infarction following right coronary artery dissection due to blunt trauma. Heart Views 2016;17:35-8

How to cite this URL:
Mubang RN, Hillman Terzian W T, Cipolla J, Keeney S, Lukaszczyk JJ, Stawicki SP. Acute myocardial infarction following right coronary artery dissection due to blunt trauma. Heart Views [serial online] 2016 [cited 2023 Sep 22];17:35-8. Available from: https://www.heartviews.org/text.asp?2016/17/1/35/182646

   Introduction Top

Blunt chest trauma is among the most commonly seen problems in traumatology.[1] In addition to the ubiquitous musculoskeletal thoracic injuries (i.e., rib fractures, spine fractures, pulmonary contusions), a number of less common injuries that clinicians must be aware of, have been reported.[2],[3],[4],[5] Among those are blunt cardiac injuries which can present as a spectrum that spans from cardiac “concussion” and contusion to acute posttraumatic valvular and coronary artery changes.[3],[5],[6]

Manifestations and patterns of more severe cardiac injuries may include myocardial contusion, hemorrhage, simple or complex arrhythmias, myocardial infarction, septal and/or free wall ruptures, valvular pathologies, ventricular aneurysm, and even coronary artery thrombosis.[2],[3],[5],[7],[8],[9] Ischemic heart disease due to coronary artery dissection following blunt trauma is extremely rare.[8],[9],[10],[11] After ruling out preexisting coronary disease as the primary cause, myocardial infarction associated with blunt trauma should raise the suspicion of coronary artery injury.[3],[5],[10] Here we present a case of a young man who was diagnosed with acute myocardial infarction due to right coronary artery (RCA) dissection after blunt chest trauma sustained during a motor vehicle crash.

   Case Report Top

A 25-year-old male, an unrestrained driver, was involved in a motor vehicle crash. He denied the loss of consciousness. He did not require dedicated extrication procedures at the scene. Upon arrival to the trauma resuscitation area, he was hemodynamically stable (blood pressure of 148/93 mmHg, heart rate 70 beats/min), and alert, with Glasgow Coma Scale of 15. His primary trauma survey was unremarkable. The secondary trauma survey revealed a complex parietal scalp laceration with a degloving component, as well as a right knee complex laceration. Upon further questioning, the patient admitted that he is a poly-substance user, including alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine. His initial hemoglobin value was 16.2 g/dL (lowest hemoglobin during entire hospitalization was 11.2 on day 3).

The patient was subsequently taken to the computed tomography (CT) scanner where images of his head, cervical spine, chest, abdomen, and pelvis were obtained. He also underwent plain film imaging of his right knee. Examination of CT images showed that he had an unstable sixth cervical vertebral fracture as well as a second lumbar vertebral fracture associated with significant canal stenosis. Despite these injuries, the patient was neurologically intact and moving all extremities. His qualitative urine drug screen was positive for cocaine metabolites and tetrahydrocannabinol. The remainder of his imaging and laboratory workup was unremarkable.

His scalp laceration was closed in the Emergency Department. His right knee laceration was primarily closed after it was determined that there was no associated fracture or joint violation. Neurological surgery evaluated the patient for this C6 and L2 fractures, with a preliminary plan made for an operative intervention the next morning. In the interim, the patient was admitted to the surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU) for close neurologic monitoring. Approximately 12 h following his SICU admission, the patient complained of acute mid-sternal chest pain. A 12-lead electrocardiogram (EKG) [Figure 1] and serum troponin (Tn) levels were obtained.
Figure 1: An 12-lead electrocardiogram showing acute ST-segment changes in leads II, III, and VF (shaded in light blue)

Click here to view

The patient's EKG showed acute ST-segment elevations in leads II, III, and AVF [Figure 1]. He was also noted to have elevated initial Tn-I, at 0.16 ng/mL, which subsequently trended higher (5.36 ng/mL at 6 h). Given the above findings, the patient was diagnosed with an acute ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). Cardiology service was consulted, and the initial attribution of the STEMI was given to a possible coronary vasospasm phenomenon associated with cocaine use. A transthoracic echocardiogram was obtained, demonstrating a left ventricular ejection fraction of 65%. However, hypokinesis was noted in the mid-inferior lateral wall of the right ventricle. In the interim, his Tn-I began to normalize (5.22 ng/mL at 12 h and 2.00 ng/mL at 24 h). Given the above findings, combined with the contraindication to anticoagulation (due to significant spinal injuries) and the concurrent contraindication for beta blocker use (due to very recent cocaine use), it was decided that spinal fixation should be the first management step.

During the subsequent 24 h, the patient's chest pain had resolved, and a repeat EKG showed resolution of the ST segment elevations. The patient underwent fixation of the sixth cervical vertebral fracture and fixation/decompression of the fifth lumbar vertebral fracture. He tolerated the procedures very well. Given an uneventful immediate postoperative period, the patient underwent cardiac catheterization at 48 h following his neurosurgical spinal procedure. The catheterization demonstrated that the patient's proximal RCA developed a focal dissection [Figure 2], with preserved distal right coronary flow. This was deemed to be the proximal cause of the patient's acute chest pain and STEMI. Since more than 48 h had passed since his neurological surgery, it was decided that aspirin use was safe at this point. Because the patient remained asymptomatic, it was felt that coronary stenting was not necessary. Consequently, he was placed on oral aspirin 325 mg daily, and beta blockers were initiated with the caveat that the patient would not be continuing to use cocaine.
Figure 2: Cardiac catheterization images showing selective angiograms of the right coronary artery. Circled areas of the right coronary artery correspond to different images of the right coronary artery dissection (middle image, inset, and arrow). There was no evidence of associated right coronary artery thrombosis, and the distal right coronary artery was patent, with no evidence of stenosis or filling defects

Click here to view

The patient was discharged from the hospital on postinjury day 8, symptom-free from a cardiac standpoint, and recovering well from neurosurgical perspective. His predischarge assessment also cleared him for release to home with a regimen of outpatient physical therapy. He subsequently underwent a follow-up cardiac catheterization at 6 weeks postdischarge. Findings included complete resolution of his RCA dissection, without any evidence of thrombosis or other residual abnormality [Figure 3]. In addition, his follow-up on left ventricular ejection fraction was 70%, with no residual hypokinesis observed.
Figure 3: Follow-up cardiac catheterization demonstrates complete resolution of the right coronary artery dissection (areas corresponding to acute abnormalities noted on the initial cardiac catheterization – see Figure 2 – are circled)

Click here to view

The patient also denied any acute cardiovascular symptoms. He had abstained from drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. The final therapeutic plan, following the second cardiac catheterization, was to continue the aspirin for another month and follow-up with cardiology as needed. Beta blockers were also discontinued at this point.

   Discussion Top

The incidence of coronary artery dissection is very low.[12] Coronary artery dissection following blunt thoracic injury is seen even less frequent.[13] Traumatic coronary artery dissection is most commonly seen in the left anterior descending distribution (76%), followed by the RCA (12%), and rarely in the circumflex (6%) distribution.[14],[15] The mechanism, while not well understood, probably involves intimal tearing secondary to injury from deceleration, compression of the artery between the heart and sternum, or coronary spasm.[16] Similar to other rare types of arterial pathology, the diagnosis of coronary dissection is often delayed due to limited practitioner awareness combined with very low incidence.[17],[18] In the current case, it was initially believed that the patient experienced a STEMI secondary to cocaine abuse. However, this line of reasoning actually delayed the correct diagnosis.

Typically, a traumatic coronary artery dissection will manifest on EKG as hyperacute T-waves in the distribution of the affected territory.[19] This subsequently evolves into ST-segment elevation.[19] The management of traumatic coronary artery dissection remains controversial and there is no clearly established standard of care. Procedural intervention is indicated if pathologic findings are severe, including aneurysm formation, ventricular septal defect, or complete arterial occlusion associated with the dissection.[20] While the definitive diagnosis is made via cardiac catheterization, the decision to place a stent must be made on a case-by-case basis. In the current case, the decision was made not to stent the patient's RCA, and conservative management was elected with close follow-up. As demonstrated on follow-up coronary angiography, there was a complete angiographic resolution of the traumatic coronary dissection with combined aspirin/beta blocker combination therapy. The nonoperative/noninterventional approach in selected arterial injury cases is now well-established and generally accepted.[21]

   Conclusions Top

Coronary artery dissection, although very rare, must be considered after blunt force trauma to the thorax that is accompanied by ischemic EKG changes, chest pain, and elevated troponins. The current case is unique because it highlights the management of this unusual finding in the context of other competing priorities (e.g., preinjury cocaine use and severe spinal trauma). Finally, this report illustrates very well the natural history of traumatic coronary artery dissection, including its complete resolution within 6 weeks of acute presentation with combined aspirin and beta blocker therapy.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

LoCicero J 3rd, Mattox KL. Epidemiology of chest trauma. Surg Clin North Am 1989;69:15-9.  Back to cited text no. 1
Shorr RM, Crittenden M, Indeck M, Hartunian SL, Rodriguez A. Blunt thoracic trauma. Analysis of 515 patients. Ann Surg 1987;206:200-5.  Back to cited text no. 2
Frazee RC, Mucha P Jr, Farnell MB, Miller FA Jr. Objective evaluation of blunt cardiac trauma. J Trauma 1986;26:510-20.  Back to cited text no. 3
Stawicki SP, Grossman MD, Hoey BA, Miller DL, Reed JF 3rd. Rib fractures in the elderly: A marker of injury severity. J Am Geriatr Soc 2004;52:805-8.  Back to cited text no. 4
Malangoni MA, McHenry CR, Jacobs DG. Outcome of serious blunt cardiac injury. Surgery 1994;116:628-32.  Back to cited text no. 5
Reardon MJ, Conklin LD, Letsou GV, Safi HJ, Espada R, Baldwin JC. Mitral valve injury from blunt trauma. J Heart Valve Dis 1998;7:467-70.  Back to cited text no. 6
Grieco JG, Montoya A, Sullivan HJ, Bakhos M, Foy BK, Blakeman B, et al. Ventricular aneurysm due to blunt chest injury. Ann Thorac Surg 1989;47:322-9.  Back to cited text no. 7
Oliva PB, Hilgenberg A, McElroy D. Obstruction of the proximal right coronary artery with acute inferior infarction due to blunt chest trauma. Ann Intern Med 1979;91:205-7.  Back to cited text no. 8
Unterberg C, Buchwald A, Wiegand V. Traumatic thrombosis of the left main coronary artery and myocardial infarction caused by blunt chest trauma. Clin Cardiol 1989;12:672-4.  Back to cited text no. 9
Harada H, Honma Y, Hachiro Y, Mawatari T, Abe T. Traumatic coronary artery dissection. Ann Thorac Surg 2002;74:236-7.  Back to cited text no. 10
Pifarré R, Grieco J, Garibaldi A, Sullivan HJ, Montoya A, Bakhos M. Acute coronary artery occlusion secondary to blunt chest trauma. J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg 1982;83:122-5.  Back to cited text no. 11
Zampieri P, Aggio S, Roncon L, Rinuncini M, Canova C, Zanazzi G, et al. Follow up after spontaneous coronary artery dissection: A report of five cases. Heart 1996;75:206-9.  Back to cited text no. 12
Basso C, Morgagni GL, Thiene G. Spontaneous coronary artery dissection: A neglected cause of acute myocardial ischaemia and sudden death. Heart 1996;75:451-4.  Back to cited text no. 13
Kohli S, Saperia GM, Waksmonski CA, Pezzella S, Singh JB. Coronary artery dissection secondary to blunt chest trauma. Cathet Cardiovasc Diagn 1988;15:179-83.  Back to cited text no. 14
Shao Y, Xia W, Zhang C, Wang X. Bilateral coronary dissection after blunt thoracic trauma: A case report. Can J Cardiol 2012;28:515.e1-2.  Back to cited text no. 15
Leong D, Brown M. Blunt traumatic dissection of the proximal left anterior descending artery. Emerg Med J 2006;23:e67.  Back to cited text no. 16
Kawakami Y, Inokuchi R, Tanji M, Ito F, Kumada Y, Matsuse S, et al. Coronary artery dissection after blunt trauma without abnormal electrocardiogram findings. Am J Emerg Med 2014;32:1157.e5-6.  Back to cited text no. 17
Stawicki SP, Rosenfeld JC, Weger N, Fields EL, Balshi JD. Spontaneous renal artery dissection: Three cases and clinical algorithms. J Hum Hypertens 2006;20:710-8.  Back to cited text no. 18
Lobay KW, MacGougan CK. Traumatic coronary artery dissection: A case report and literature review. J Emerg Med 2012;43:e239-43.  Back to cited text no. 19
Ginzburg E, Dygert J, Parra-Davila E, Lynn M, Almeida J, Mayor M. Coronary artery stenting for occlusive dissection after blunt chest trauma. J Trauma 1998;45:157-61.  Back to cited text no. 20
Stawicki SP. Trends in nonoperative management of traumatic injuries: A synopsis. OPUS 12 Scientist 2007;1:19-35.  Back to cited text no. 21


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3]

This article has been cited by
1 Traumatic left main coronary artery dissection in a young adult following blunt chest trauma A case report
Selen Bayraktaroglu, Mohammad Nawaz Nasery, Naqibullah Foladi
Radiology Case Reports. 2022; 17(4): 1190
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
2 Blunt traumatic coronary artery dissection: A case study
Aaron J. Blevins, Steven J. Repas, Brittney M. Alexander, Christa Siebenburgen
Trauma Case Reports. 2021; : 100594
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
3 Left anterior descending artery dissection: a rare sequela of blunt chest trauma
Souvik K. Das,Charles Itty,Manan Vaishnav,Drew Mumford
Internal Medicine Journal. 2020; 50(7): 880
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
4 Did heart asymmetry play a role in the evolution of human handedness?
Matz Larsson
Journal of Cultural Cognitive Science. 2017; 1(2): 65
[Pubmed] | [DOI]


    Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
 Related articles
    Access Statistics
    Email Alert *
    Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

  In this article
   Case Report
    Article Figures

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded84    
    Comments [Add]    
    Cited by others 4    

Recommend this journal