The focused abdominal sonography for trauma examination can reliably identify patients with significant intra-abdominal hemorrhage in life-threatening pelvic fractures

J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2018 Jun;84(6):924-928. doi: 10.1097/TA.0000000000001838.


Background: The focused abdominal sonography for trauma (FAST) examination has been reported to be unreliable in pelvic fracture patients. Additionally, given the advent of new therapeutic interventions, such as resuscitative endovascular balloon occlusion of the aorta (REBOA), rapid identification of intra-abdominal hemorrhage compared with Zone III hemorrhage may guide different therapeutic strategies. We hypothesized that FAST is reliable for detecting clinically significant intra-abdominal hemorrhage in the face of complex pelvic fractures.

Methods: Our pelvic fracture database of all hemodynamically unstable patients requiring intervention from January 1, 2005, to July 1, 2015, was reviewed. The FAST examination was compared with operative and computed tomography (CT) scan findings. Confirmatory evaluation for FAST(-) patients was considered positive if therapeutic intervention was required.

Results: During the study period, 81 patients in refractory shock with FAST imaging in our emergency department (ED) underwent pelvic packing. Mean age was 45 ± 2 years and Injury Severity Score was 50 ± 1.5. The FAST examination was negative in 53 patients; 52 patients did not require operative intervention for abdominal bleeding while one patient required splenectomy. The FAST examination was positive in 28 patients; 26 had findings confirmed by CT or laparotomy while two patients did not have intra-abdominal hemorrhage on further evaluation. The sensitivity and specificity for FAST in this population was 96% and 96%, respectively, positive predictive value was 93%, and negative predictive value was 98%. The false-negative and -positive rates for FAST were 2% and 7%.

Conclusion: Focused abdominal sonography for trauma examination reliably identifies clinically significant hemoperitoneum in life-threatening, pelvic fracture related hemorrhage. The incidence of a false-negative FAST in this unstable pelvic fracture population was 2%. FAST results may be used when determining the role of REBOA in these multisystem trauma patients and requires further study. REBOA placement should be considered in hemodynamically unstable pelvic fracture patients who are FAST(-), while laparotomy should be used in FAST(+) patients.

Level of evidence: Therapeutic, level IV.

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Injuries / complications*
  • Abdominal Injuries / diagnostic imaging*
  • Abdominal Injuries / surgery
  • Female
  • Fractures, Bone / complications*
  • Fractures, Bone / diagnostic imaging*
  • Fractures, Bone / surgery
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pelvic Bones / injuries*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Shock, Hemorrhagic / diagnostic imaging*
  • Shock, Hemorrhagic / etiology*
  • Shock, Hemorrhagic / surgery
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Ultrasonography / methods*