[The role of whole body spiral CT in the primary work-up of polytrauma patients--comparison with conventional radiography and abdominal sonography]

Rofo. 2004 Aug;176(8):1142-50. doi: 10.1055/s-2004-813259.
[Article in German]


Purpose: To evaluate the role of routine "whole body spiral CT"in the primary work-up of polytrauma patients for injuries of the thorax, abdomen and spine, and to compare the results with those of conventional radiography of the chest and spine and abdominal ultrasound.

Materials and methods: Fifty consecutive polytrauma patients underwent contrast-enhanced single slice spiral CT (5 mm collimation) from the vertex to the floor of the pelvis as part of the primary work-up after emergency room admission. Overlapping high resolution sections and sagittal reformations of the spine were obtained. Reports of additional chest radiographs (n=43), abdominal ultrasound examinations(n = 47) and spine radiographs (n = 36) performed in the emergency room were available for retrospective comparison. The "final diagnoses," which served as the standard of reference, were taken from the patients' records using all information that be-came available until discharge or death, such as findings from further imaging, surgery and autopsy.

Results: CT showed 109(97%) of 112 thoracic and abdominal soft-tissue injuries. Relevant injuries missed were an early splenic laceration and an early pelvic hematoma, both of which became clinically apparent several hours later. There were 4 false positive CT findings. Conventional chest radiography demonstrated only 20% of thoracic and sonography 22% of abdominal injuries. Chest radiography and sonography produced 2 false-positive findings each. CT showed 66 (87%) of 76 vertebral fractures including all 19 unstable ones.CT missed 5 anterior vertebral body and 5 spinous/transverse process fractures. Conventional radiography found 71 % of vertebral fractures including only 50 % of the unstable ones.

Conclusion: Routine performance of whole body spiral CT as part of the primary work-up of polytrauma patients provides a fast and comprehensive survey and detects almost all soft tissue injuries of the chest and abdomen. It is clearly superior to chest radiography and abdominal sonography. All spinal injuries relevant for the acute management were also seen on CT, but not on conventional radiography.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Injuries / diagnostic imaging
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Humans
  • Radiography, Thoracic
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Fractures / diagnostic imaging
  • Spine / diagnostic imaging
  • Thoracic Injuries / diagnostic imaging
  • Tomography, Spiral Computed / methods*
  • Ultrasonography / methods
  • Wounds and Injuries / diagnostic imaging*