Missed injuries in the era of the trauma scan

J Trauma. 2011 Feb;70(2):452-6; discussion 456-8. doi: 10.1097/TA.0b013e3182028d71.


Background: A rapid computed tomography technique or "trauma scan" (TS) provides high-resolution studies of the head, cervical spine, chest, abdomen, and pelvis. We sought to determine whether TS has decreased missed injuries. A previous study of TS found a 3% missed rate.

Methods: After institutional review board approval, trauma patients from January 2001 through December 2008 were reviewed for delayed diagnosis (DD) of injury to the head, cervical spine, chest, abdomen, or pelvis. Missed extremity injuries were excluded. Injury Severity Score, length of stay, type of injury, outcomes, and days to detection were captured.

Results: Of 26,264 patients reviewed, 90 patients had DD, with an incidence of 0.34%. DD most commonly presented on day 2. Injuries included 16 bowel/mesentery, 12 spine, 11 pelvic, 8 spleen, 6 diaphragm, 5 clavicle, 4 scapula, 4 cervical spine, 4 intracranial, 4 sternum, 3 maxillofacial, 3 liver, 2 heart/aorta, 2 vascular, 2 urethra/bladder, 2 pneumothorax, and 2 pancreas/common bile duct. DD resulted in 1 death, 6 prolonged intensive care unit stays, 19 operative interventions, and 38 additional interventions.

Conclusions: TS is an effective way of evaluating trauma patients for intracranial, cervical spine, chest, abdomen, and pelvic injuries that have the potential to impact morbidity and mortality. The incidence of injuries missed in these crucial areas has been reduced at our institution by the use of this radiographic modality. The most common missed injury remains bowel, and so a high index of suspicion and the tertiary survey must remain a mainstay of therapy.

MeSH terms

  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Diagnostic Errors* / economics
  • Diagnostic Errors* / prevention & control
  • Diagnostic Errors* / statistics & numerical data
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / economics
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed* / economics
  • Wounds and Injuries / diagnostic imaging*
  • Wounds and Injuries / economics