Incidental findings in patients with multiple injuries: how to proceed?

J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2013 Nov;75(5):848-53. doi: 10.1097/TA.0b013e3182a925b9.


Background: Multislice computed tomography (MSCT) is the diagnostic criterion standard for the initial evaluation of patients with suspected multiple injuries. Besides scanning for injuries directly related to the initial trauma, MSCT scans can reveal pathologies unrelated to the trauma of clinical relevance.The aim of the present study was to determine the frequency and follow-up course of incidental findings in patients with multiple injuries.

Methods: This is a retrospective analysis of prospectively collected data on 2,242 patients with suspected multiple injuries at a Level I trauma center from 2006 to 2010.The MSCT reports were retrospectively reviewed regarding abnormal findings not related to trauma. These incidental findings were classified on a four-point level scoring system with respect to clinical importance and urgency for further diagnostic and therapeutic procedures.

Results: During initial trauma center evaluation in the emergency department, 2,246 patients met our inclusion criteria. A total of 2,036 patients (90.7%) underwent MSCT; 1,142 (50.9%) of the patients had one or more incidental findings. A total of 2,844 incidental findings were detected. Overall, 349 tumor findings were noted (12.3% of all incidental findings); 113 findings were suspicious for malignant processes or metastasis. According to our classification, 168 (5.9%) of the incidental findings required urgent follow-up (Level 4), and 527 (18.5%) of the incidental findings required a follow-up before discharge (Level 3).

Conclusion: MSCT in patients with multiple injuries reveals one or more incidental findings in more than one of two patients. A scoring system classifying for relevance of incidental findings was introduced and could be applied in routine trauma care in the future.

Level of evidence: Epidemiologic study, level III.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Incidental Findings*
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multidetector Computed Tomography / methods*
  • Multiple Trauma / diagnostic imaging*
  • Multiple Trauma / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Trauma Centers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult