Routine versus selective computed tomography of the abdomen, pelvis, and lumbar spine in blunt trauma: a prospective evaluation

J Trauma. 2009 Apr;66(4):1108-17. doi: 10.1097/TA.0b013e31817e55c3.


Background: Discussion still remains whether computed tomography (CT) of the abdomen, pelvis, and lumbar spine should be performed routinely after blunt trauma with high energy impact or only in restricted situations. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the additional value of a routine CT algorithm as compared with a more restricted, selective CT algorithm.

Materials: This prospective study consisted of 465 patients that met the inclusion criteria of our high-energy trauma protocol. All patients underwent physical examination, abdominal ultrasound (AUS), and conventional radiography (CR) of the pelvis and lumbar spine and subsequently routine CT of the abdomen, pelvis, and lumbar spine. Before CT, a subgroup of patients with abnormal physical examination or CR or AUS was prospectively defined as the selective CT group. Type and extent of injuries and impact on treatment were recorded for both the routine CT group and the selective CT subgroup.

Results: Of all patients, 42 received selective CT of the abdomen, 71 of the pelvis, and 48 of the lumbar spine. Compared with the algorithm with selective CT, routine CT revealed additional traumatic injuries in 15% of the patients in the abdomen, in 2.4% in the pelvis and in 8.2% in the lumbar spine. This resulted in an overall change of treatment in 6.4% (95% confidence interval, 3.7-9.0) of the patients who would not have received CT in a selective CT algorithm.

Conclusions: Compared with an algorithm with selective CT, an algorithm with routine CT finds substantially more clinically relevant diagnoses, even in patients with unsuspicious clinical examination, normal CR, and normal AUS.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Injuries / diagnostic imaging*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Algorithms
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pelvis / injuries*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Spinal Injuries / diagnostic imaging*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / statistics & numerical data*
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / diagnostic imaging*
  • Young Adult