Purpose: To determine if multi-detector row computed tomography (CT) can replace conventional radiography and be performed alone in severe trauma patients for the depiction of thoracolumbar spine fractures.
Materials and methods: One hundred consecutive severe trauma patients who underwent conventional radiography of the thoracolumbar spine as well as thoracoabdominal multi-detector row CT were prospectively identified. Conventional radiographs were reviewed independently by three radiologists and two orthopedic surgeons; CT images were reviewed by three radiologists. Reviewers were blinded both to one another's reviews and to the results of initial evaluation. Presence, location, and stability of fractures, as well as quality of reviewed images, were assessed. Statistical analysis was performed to determine sensitivity and interobserver agreement for each procedure, with results of clinical and radiologic follow-up as the standard of reference. The time to perform each examination and the radiation dose involved were evaluated. A resource cost analysis was performed.
Results: Sixty-seven fractured vertebrae were diagnosed in 26 patients. Twelve patients had unstable spine fractures. Mean sensitivity and interobserver agreement, respectively, for detection of unstable fractures were 97.2% and 0.951 for multi-detector row CT and 33.3% and 0.368 for conventional radiography. The median times to perform a conventional radiographic and a multi-detector row CT examination, respectively, were 33 and 40 minutes. Effective radiation doses at conventional radiography of the spine and thoracoabdominal multi-detector row CT, respectively, were 6.36 mSv and 19.42 mSv. Multi-detector row CT enabled identification of 146 associated traumatic lesions. The costs of conventional radiography and multi-detector row CT, respectively, were 145 and 880 US dollars per patient.
Conclusion: Multi-detector row CT is a better examination for depicting spine fractures than conventional radiography. It can replace conventional radiography and be performed alone in patients who have sustained severe trauma.