Ultrasound evaluation of blunt abdominal trauma: program implementation, initial experience, and learning curve

J Trauma. 1997 Mar;42(3):384-8; discussion 388-90. doi: 10.1097/00005373-199703000-00004.


Objective: Although sonographic screening for blunt abdominal trauma is gaining acceptance, standards for implementation, training, credentialing, and quality control remain to be established.

Design: This prospective study examines a Level I trauma service experience with the de novo establishment of a trauma ultrasound (US) program credentialed through the Department of Surgery under the auspices of Continuous Quality Improvement.

Materials and methods: All trauma surgeons attended a combined didactic and "hands on" 8-hour trauma US course. Abdominal sonography was subsequently performed on patients with potential blunt abdominal trauma followed by a standard diagnostic evaluation, which included computed tomographic scan, diagnostic peritoneal lavage, or observation.

Measurements and main results: Three hundred patients were studied over a 4-month period. They averaged 35 years of age with an average injury severity score of 12. The time required to perform the US examination averaged less than 3 minutes. Standard diagnostic evaluation included computed tomographic scan (21%), diagnostic peritoneal lavage (45%), and observation (34%). US examinations resulted in 277 true negatives, 17 true positives, two false positives, and four false negatives for a sensitivity of 81.0%, a specificity of 99.3%, and an accuracy of 98.0%. Annualized cost savings with the use of US evaluation versus standard diagnostic evaluation would amount to over $100,000.00.

Conclusions: This experience with the de novo implementation of a trauma US program suggests that the training and credentialing requirements in this study are sufficient to provide surgeon ultrasonographers with acceptable competence in US diagnosis of blunt abdominal trauma.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Injuries / diagnosis
  • Abdominal Injuries / diagnostic imaging*
  • Adult
  • Cost Control
  • Education, Medical, Continuing
  • False Negative Reactions
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Female
  • General Surgery / education
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Peritoneal Lavage
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Ultrasonography / economics
  • Ultrasonography / standards
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / diagnosis
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / diagnostic imaging*