Background: Blunt Bowel and Mesenteric injuries (BBMI) can present diagnostic difficulties and are occasionally recognized in a delayed fashion. Most studies evaluating these injuries predate multidetector Computerized Tomography (CT) scan technology. We set out to analyze whether the current era of multislice CT scanning has led to changes in the incidence of missed injuries in BBMI or altered the patterns of diagnosis.
Methods: All patients with blunt small and large intestinal injury as well as mesenteric lacerations, recognized in the operating room (OR) between November 2000 and December 2006 were identified from the trauma registry. A 4 slice helical multidetector CT scanner was in use for abdominal CT scans during the first portion of the study (November 2000-July 2005) whereas a 16 slice scanner was in use in the second portion (July 2005-December 2006). Rectal injuries and serosal tears were excluded.
Results: Eighty-two patients were identified with BBMI. Twenty-five patients went directly to the OR for laparotomy after a positive Diagnostic Peritoneal Lavage, a positive Focused Abdominal Sonogram or other injury. Of the 57 patients who underwent CT, findings indicating possible BBMI were present in 46 patients (80.7%). These included free fluid without solid organ injury (50.9%), free air (10.5%), active mesenteric bleeding (10.5%), and bowel swelling (5.3%). Eleven patients (19.3%) had delayed bowel or mesenteric injury recognition with the diagnosis ultimately made by repeat CT or in the OR (range, 1-10 days).
Conclusion: Missed injuries remain common in BBMI even in the current era of multislice CT scanners. Free fluid w/o solid organ injury, though not specific, continues to be an important finding. Adjuncts to CT continue to be necessary for the optimal diagnosis of bowel injuries.