Diagnostic pelvic computed tomography in the rectal-injured combat casualty

Mil Med. 2008 Mar;173(3):293-9. doi: 10.7205/milmed.173.3.293.


Background: The current standard for evaluating trauma patients for penetrating rectal injury is to perform a rigid proctoscopy. This can be laborious and inaccurate. Injuries are often not visualized and a small number of unnecessary colostomies may be created. Computed tomography (CT) scanning of the pelvis may be useful in identifying penetrating rectal injuries.

Study design: A retrospective analysis was performed on data regarding all casualties admitted to the 10th Combat Support Hospital during the period of November 2005 through March 2006. Nineteen patients were identified. Patients that were hemodynamically stable underwent preoperative CT scanning. All rectal injuries diagnosed preoperatively were confirmed through a different diagnostic modality in the OR.

Results: Nineteen patients with rectal injury or suspected rectal injury were identified. Eight of the 19 were hemodynamically unstable in the emergency medical treatment area and were taken emergently to surgery. For discussion, only stable patients with gunshot wound or blast/fragmentation injury mechanisms were included. No injuries were missed by CT scanning, but there were two false-positive scans.

Conclusions: In our brief experience, CT scanning was a useful screening tool to assist in identifying patients with penetrating traumatic rectal injuries. It allowed us to improve triage and make effective use of limited operative resources.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Military Medicine*
  • Military Personnel*
  • Rectum / injuries*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed*
  • Triage
  • Warfare*
  • Wounds and Injuries / diagnosis*