Ultrasound for the detection of foreign bodies in human tissue

Ann Emerg Med. 1997 Mar;29(3):353-6. doi: 10.1016/s0196-0644(97)70347-0.


Study objective: To determine the accuracy of detection of wood and plastic foreign bodies in human tissue by relatively inexperienced clinicians using typical ultrasound equipment.

Methods: Uniform wood and plastic foreign bodies were placed through small punctures into recently amputated human legs. Identical control punctures contained no foreign bodies; the sequence of foreign bodies and controls for the puncture sites was randomized. A second blinded investigator scanned each puncture site with a 7.5-MHz ultrasound probe to determine the presence or absence of foreign material.

Results: Eighty punctures were scanned. Ultrasound detected 44 of 53 foreign bodies (83% sensitivity). Wood foreign bodies were detected 25 of 27 times (93%) and plastic foreign bodies 19 of 26 times (73%; P = 13). Overall, there were 11 false-positive readings (59% specificity).

Conclusion: Ultrasound is imperfect but may be useful in screening for superficial foreign bodies in human tissue. Clinical utility in the ED setting remains to be tested.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Emergency Medicine
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Foreign Bodies / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency
  • Leg Injuries / diagnostic imaging*
  • Plastics*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Ultrasonography
  • Wood*


  • Plastics