Accuracy of the abdominal examination for identifying children with blunt intra-abdominal injuries

J Pediatr. 2014 Dec;165(6):1230-1235.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2014.08.014. Epub 2014 Sep 27.


Objective: To determine the accuracy of complaints of abdominal pain and findings of abdominal tenderness for identifying children with intra-abdominal injury (IAI) stratified by Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score.

Study design: This was a prospective, multicenter observational study of children with blunt torso trauma and a GCS score ≥13. We calculated the sensitivity of abdominal findings for IAI with 95% CI stratified by GCS score. We examined the association of isolated abdominal pain or tenderness with IAI and that undergoing acute intervention (therapeutic laparotomy, angiographic embolization, blood transfusion, or ≥2 nights of intravenous fluid therapy).

Results: Among the 12 044 patients evaluated, 11 277 (94%) had a GCS score of ≥13 and were included in this analysis. Sensitivity of abdominal pain for IAI was 79% (95% CI, 76%-83%) for patients with a GCS score of 15, 51% (95% CI, 37%-65%) for patients with a GCS score of 14, and 32% (95% CI, 14%-55%) for patients with a GCS score of 13. Sensitivity of abdominal tenderness for IAI also decreased with decreasing GCS score: 79% (95% CI, 75%-82%) for a GCS score of 15, 57% (95% CI, 42%-70%) for a GCS score of 14, and 37% (95% CI, 19%-58%) for a GCS score of 13. Among patients with isolated abdominal pain and/or tenderness, the rate of IAI was 8% (95% CI, 6%-9%) and the rate of IAI undergoing acute intervention was 1% (95% CI, 1%-2%).

Conclusion: The sensitivity of abdominal findings for IAI decreases as GCS score decreases. Although abdominal computed tomography is not mandatory, the risk of IAI is sufficiently high that diagnostic evaluation is warranted in children with isolated abdominal pain or tenderness.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Injuries / complications
  • Abdominal Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Abdominal Injuries / therapy
  • Abdominal Pain / etiology
  • Blood Transfusion / statistics & numerical data
  • Child
  • Embolization, Therapeutic
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / injuries
  • Glasgow Coma Scale
  • Humans
  • Laparotomy
  • Liver / injuries
  • Male
  • Physical Examination*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Spleen / injuries
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / diagnosis*
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / therapy