Performance of abdominal ultrasonography in blunt trauma patients with out-of-hospital or emergency department hypotension

Ann Emerg Med. 2004 Mar;43(3):354-61. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2003.09.011.


Study objectives: We determine the test performance of abdominal ultrasonography for detecting hemoperitoneum in blunt trauma patients with out-of-hospital or emergency department (ED) hypotension.

Methods: We reviewed the medical records of all blunt trauma patients hospitalized at a Level I trauma center. Patients were included if they were older than 6 years and had out-of-hospital or ED hypotension (systolic blood pressure < or =90 mm Hg) and underwent ED ultrasonography. The initial interpretation of the abdominal ultrasonography was recorded, including the presence or absence of intraperitoneal fluid and the specific location of such fluid. Presence or absence of intra-abdominal injury was determined by abdominal computed tomography scan, laparotomy, or clinical follow-up.

Results: Four hundred forty-seven patients with a mean age of 36.0+/-17.5 years were enrolled. One hundred forty-eight (33%) patients had intra-abdominal injuries, and 116 (78%) of these patients had hemoperitoneum. Abdominal ultrasonography had the following test performance for detecting patients with intra-abdominal injury and hemoperitoneum: sensitivity 92/116 (79%; 95% confidence interval [CI] 71% to 86%), specificity 316/331 (95%; 95% CI 93% to 97%), positive predictive value 92/107 (86%; 95% CI 78% to 92%), and negative predictive value 316/340 (93%; 95% CI 90% to 95%). The positive likelihood ratio was 15.8, and the negative likelihood ratio was 0.22. One hundred five (91%) of the 116 patients with intra-abdominal injuries and hemoperitoneum underwent a therapeutic laparotomy. Abdominal ultrasonography demonstrated intraperitoneal fluid in 87 (sensitivity 83%; 95% CI 74% to 90%) of these 105 patients.

Conclusion: Of patients with out-of-hospital or ED hypotension, abdominal ultrasonography identifies most patients with hemoperitoneum and intra-abdominal injuries. Hypotensive patients with negative abdominal ultrasonography results, however, must be further evaluated for sources of their hypotension, including additional abdominal evaluation, once they are hemodynamically stabilized.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Injuries / complications
  • Abdominal Injuries / diagnostic imaging*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Emergency Medical Services
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Hemoperitoneum / diagnostic imaging*
  • Hemoperitoneum / etiology
  • Humans
  • Hypotension / etiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Trauma Centers
  • Ultrasonography
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / complications
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / diagnostic imaging*