Purpose: To describe the practice pattern for routine laboratory and imaging assessment of children following blunt abdominal trauma (BAT).
Methods: Children (age < 16 years) presenting to 14 pediatric trauma centers following BAT over a 1-year period were prospectively identified. Injury, demographic, routine laboratory and imaging utilization data were collected. Descriptive, comparative, and correlation analysis was performed.
Results: 2188 children with a median age of 8 (4,12) years were included and the median injury severity score was 5 (1,10). There were significant differences in activation status, injury severity, and mechanism across centers; however, there was no correlation of level of activation, injury severity, or severe mechanism with test utilization. Routine laboratory and imaging utilization for hematocrit, hepatic enzymes, pancreatic enzymes, base deficit urine microscopy, chest and pelvis X-ray, and abdominal computed tomography (CT) varied significantly among centers. Only obtaining a hematocrit had a moderate correlation with CT use. There was no correlation between centers that were high or low frequency laboratory utilizers with CT use.
Conclusions: Wide variability exists in the routine initial laboratory and imaging assessment in children following BAT. This represents an opportunity for quality improvement in pediatric trauma.
Level of evidence: Level II.
Keywords: Blunt abdominal trauma; Pediatric; Variability.