Background: Trauma ultrasound (US) utilizing the focused assessment with sonography in trauma (FAST) is often performed to detect traumatic free peritoneal fluid (FPF). Yet its accuracy is unclear in certain trauma subgroups such as those with major pelvic fractures whose emergent diagnostic and therapeutic needs are unique. We hypothesized that in patients with major pelvic injury (MPI) trauma ultrasound would perform with lower accuracy than has previously been reported.
Methods: Retrospective analysis of adult trauma patients with pelvic fractures seen at an urban Level I emergency department and trauma center. Patients were identified from the institutional trauma registry and ultrasound database from 1999 to 2003. All patients aged >16 years with MPI (Tile classification A2, all type B and C pelvic fractures, and type C acetabular fractures determined by a blinded orthopedic traumatologist) and who had a trauma US performed during the initial emergency department evaluation were included. All ultrasounds were performed by emergency physicians or surgeons using the four-quadrant FAST evaluation. Results of US were compared with one of three reference standards: abdominal/pelvic computed tomography, diagnostic peritoneal tap, or exploratory laparotomy. Two-by-two tables were constructed for diagnostic indices.
Results: In all, 96 patients were eligible; 9 were excluded for indeterminate ultrasound results. Of the remaining 87 patients, the pelvic fracture types were distributed as follows: 9% type A2, 72% type B, 16% type C, and 3% type C acetabular fractures. Overall US sensitivity for detection of FPF was 80.8%, specificity was 86.9%, positive predictive value was 72.4%, and negative predictive value was 91.4%. Categorization of sensitivity according to pelvic ring fracture type is as follows: type A2 fractures: sensitivity and specificity, 75.0%; type B fractures: sensitivity, 73.3%, specificity, 85.1%; and type C fractures (pelvis and acetabulum): sensitivity and specificity, 100%. Of the true-positive US results, blood was the FPF in 16 of 21 (76%) and urine from intraperitoneal bladder rupture in 4 in 21 (19%) patients.
Conclusion: US in the initial evaluation of traumatic peritoneal fluid in major pelvic injury patients has lower sensitivity and specificity than previously reported for blunt trauma patients. Additionally, uroperitoneum comprises a substantial proportion of traumatic free peritoneal fluid in patients with MPI.