Prehospital ultrasound imaging improves management of abdominal trauma

Br J Surg. 2006 Feb;93(2):238-42. doi: 10.1002/bjs.5213.


Background: Blunt abdominal trauma with intra-abdominal bleeding is often underdiagnosed or even overlooked at trauma scenes. The purpose of this prospective, multicentre study was to compare the accuracy of physical examination and prehospital focused abdominal sonography for trauma (PFAST) to detect abdominal bleeding.

Methods: Six rescue centres took part in the study from December 2002 to December 2003, including 230 patients with suspected abdominal injury. The accuracy of physical examination at the scene and PFAST were compared. Later examinations in the emergency department (ultrasonography and/or computed tomography) were used as the reference standard.

Results: The complete protocol and follow-up was obtained in 202 patients. The sensitivity, specificity and accuracy of PFAST were 93 per cent, 99 per cent and 99 per cent, respectively, compared with 93 per cent, 52 per cent and 57 per cent for physical examination at the scene. Scanning with PFAST occurred a mean(s.d.) 35(13) min earlier than ultrasound in the emergency department. Abdominal bleeding was detected in 14 per cent of patients. Using PFAST led to a change in either prehospital therapy or management in 30 per cent of patients, and a change to admitting hospital in 22 per cent.

Conclusion: In this study, PFAST was a useful and reliable diagnostic tool when used as part of surgical triage at the trauma scene.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Injuries / diagnostic imaging*
  • Abdominal Injuries / therapy
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emergency Medical Services / methods*
  • Emergency Medical Services / standards
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Hemorrhage / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Examination / standards
  • Prospective Studies
  • Ultrasonography
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / diagnostic imaging*