Background: Torso sonography (focused assessment with sonography for trauma [FAST]) has been added to our protocols for the evaluation of penetrating torso injury. The purpose of this study was to evaluate our recent experience and determine whether the use of FAST is beneficial.
Methods: From January 1999 to January 2000, patients with penetrating torso injury and no clinical indication for surgery were evaluated by sonography with a selective use of other investigations. FAST consisted of sonographic views of the peritoneum and/or pericardium to determine the presence or absence of fluid.
Results: During the study period, there were 238 victims of penetrating injury assessed by our trauma service, and sonography was performed in 72 (30%) patients as per our protocols. There were 31 stab, 37 gunshot/shotgun and, and 4 puncture wounds. Thirty-eight patients had peritoneal views, 6 patients had pericardial views, and 28 patients had both pericardial and peritoneal views obtained. Thirteen of 66 patients had free fluid in the peritoneal cavity and 12 of the 13 patients had a therapeutic laparotomy. No peritoneal fluid was seen in 53 of 66 patients, of whom 6 had abdominal injuries, 5 requiring surgery for diaphragm or bowel injuries. The sensitivity of FAST alone for abdominal injury was 67%, specificity was 98%, positive predictive value was 92%, and negative predictive value was 89%. Pericardial fluid was seen in 3 of 34 patients; one had a heart wound and two had negative pericardial windows. All 31 patients without pericardial fluid recovered without surgery.
Conclusion: The routine use of sonography in penetrating torso injury is beneficial. The detection of pericardial or peritoneal fluid is clinically useful. However, a negative FAST examination does not exclude abdominal injury, such as a diaphragm or hollow viscus wound, and further investigation or close follow-up is required.