Background: Chest radiographs continue to be a routine part of the evaluation of children sustaining blunt trauma. This study sought to determine those clinical markers associated with an abnormal chest radiograph in nonintubated, pediatric, blunt trauma victims.
Methods: A retrospective case-control study was performed for severely injured pediatric trauma patients presenting to our emergency department between January 1, 1996, and December 31, 1997. Abnormal chest radiographs were identified through the trauma registry and four controls were matched to each case. Radiographs were reevaluated by our study radiologist. Variables associated with an abnormal chest radiograph were grouped to develop a set of clinical markers that could predict an abnormal chest radiograph with a high degree of sensitivity.
Results: An initial chest radiograph was obtained in 457 of 587 trauma patients. Thirty study patients with an abnormal radiograph that met inclusion criteria were analyzed with 133 controls. The presence of either an abnormal respiratory rate for age, chest tenderness, or back abrasions had a sensitivity of 1.0 (95% confidence interval, 0.86-1.0) and a specificity of 0.38 (95% confidence interval, 0.30-0.47).
Conclusion: In pediatric trauma patients, the presence of chest tenderness, back abrasions, or an abnormal respiratory rate identified all abnormal chest radiographs.