Blunt abdominal trauma: clinical value of negative screening US scans

Radiology. 2004 Mar;230(3):661-8. doi: 10.1148/radiol.2303021707.


Purpose: To assess clinical and surgical outcomes in patients with blunt abdominal trauma and negative screening ultrasonographic (US) scans.

Materials and methods: From a database of 4,000 patients who underwent screening US for suspected blunt abdominal trauma at a level 1 trauma center, the authors retrospectively identified 3,679 patients with negative US findings. In these patients, outcome was determined by means of retrospective review of the trauma registry and all radiologic, surgical, and autopsy reports. In patients with false-negative findings at screening US, all imaging studies and medical charts were also reviewed. Proportions were statistically compared by means of the Pearson chi(2) and Fisher exact tests. Monte Carlo estimation was applied when expected frequencies were low.

Results: Among the 3,679 patients with negative findings at screening US, 99.9% (n = 3,641) had no injuries (true-negative findings). Differences in true-negative rates as a function of year (P >.5) or time of day (P >.3) were not significant. Among the 3,641 patients with true-negative findings, 93.6% (n = 3,407) required no additional tests and 6.4% (n = 234) underwent computed tomography or other tests. The percentage of patients who underwent additional tests was significantly higher in the 1st year of the study (19.2%) than in subsequent years (all comparisons, P <.001). Thirty-eight patients had false-negative US findings for abdominal injury. The injuries that were missed in 24 patients were nonsurgical (those that were treated successfully without intervention or were considered minor at autopsy) and those in 14 patients were surgical (required surgical intervention). Cumulatively, 65 injuries were missed. The six most common injuries included retroperitoneal hematoma (n = 13) and injuries in the spleen (n = 10), liver (n = 9), kidney (n = 8), adrenal gland (n = 8), and small bowel (n = 7). Twenty-five of the 38 patients had no or trace hemoperitoneum. Mean diagnostic delay until recognition of missed injury was 16.8 hours +/- 4.3 (standard error of the mean). The missed injury was identified within 12 hours in 19 of the 38 patients and within 24 hours in 34.

Conclusion: The combination of negative US findings and negative clinical observation virtually excludes abdominal injury in patients who are admitted and observed for at least 12-24 hours.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen / diagnostic imaging
  • Abdomen / pathology
  • Abdominal Injuries / diagnostic imaging*
  • Abdominal Injuries / pathology
  • Abdominal Injuries / surgery
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • California
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diagnostic Errors / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Hemoperitoneum / diagnostic imaging
  • Hemoperitoneum / pathology
  • Hemoperitoneum / surgery
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Trauma Centers
  • Ultrasonography / statistics & numerical data*
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / diagnostic imaging*
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / pathology
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / surgery