Initial screening test for blunt cerebrovascular injury: Validity assessment of whole-body computed tomography

Surgery. 2015 Sep;158(3):627-35. doi: 10.1016/j.surg.2015.03.063. Epub 2015 Jun 9.


Introduction: Our whole-body computed tomography protocol (WBCT), used to image patients with polytrauma, consists of a noncontrast head computed tomography (CT) followed by a multidetector computed tomography (40- or 64- slice) that includes an intravenous, contrast-enhanced scan from the face through the pelvis. WBCT is used to screen for blunt cerebrovascular injury (BCVI) during initial CT imaging of the patient with polytrauma and allows for early initiation of therapy with the goal of avoiding stroke. WBCT has not been directly compared with CT angiography (CTA) of the neck as a screening tool for BCVI. We hypothesize that WBCT is a valid modality to diagnose BCVI compared with neck CTA, thus screening patients with polytrauma for BCVI and limiting the need for subsequent CTA.

Methods: A retrospective review of the trauma registry was conducted for all patients diagnosed with BCVI from June 2009 to June 2013 at our institution. All injuries, identified and graded on initial WBCT, were compared with neck CTA imaging performed within the first 72 hours. Sensitivity was calculated for WBCT by the use of CTA as the reference standard. Proportions of agreement also were calculated between the grades of injury for both imaging modalities.

Results: A total of 319 injured vessels were identified in 227 patients. On initial WBCT 80 (25%) of the injuries were grade I, 75 (24%) grade II, 45 (14%) grade III, 41 (13%) grade IV, and 58 (18%) were classified as indeterminate: 27 vertebral and 31 carotid lesions. Twenty (6%) of the 319 injuries were not detected on WBCT but identified on subsequent CTA (9 grade I, 7 grade II, 4 grade III); 6 vertebral and 14 carotid. For each vessel type and for all vessels combined, WBCT demonstrated sensitivity rates of over 90% to detect BCVI among the population of patients with at least one vessel injured. There was concordant grading of injuries between WBCT and initial diagnostic CTA in 154 (48% of all injuries). Lower grade injures were more discordant than higher grades (55% vs 13%, respectively; P < .001). Grading was upgraded 8% of the time and downgraded 25%.

Conclusion: WBCT holds promise as a rapid screening test for BCVI in the patient with polytrauma to identify injuries in the early stage of the trauma evaluation, thus allowing more rapid initiation of treatment. In addition, in those patients with high risk for BCVI but whose WBCT results are negative for BCVI, neck CTA should be considered to more confidently exclude low-grade injuries.

Publication types

  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cerebrovascular Trauma / complications
  • Cerebrovascular Trauma / diagnostic imaging*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multidetector Computed Tomography / methods*
  • Multiple Trauma / complications
  • Multiple Trauma / diagnostic imaging*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Stroke / etiology
  • Stroke / prevention & control
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / complications
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / diagnostic imaging*