A comparison of sonographic examinations for trauma performed by surgeons and radiologists

J Trauma. 1998 Apr;44(4):604-6; discussion 607-8. doi: 10.1097/00005373-199804000-00008.


Background: It has been demonstrated that surgeons and surgery residents, trained in the focused abdominal sonographic examination, are able to accurately and reliably evaluate trauma patients. Despite this, radiologists have objected to surgeon-performed sonography for several reasons. We set out to compare the accuracy of sonographic examinations performed by surgery residents and radiologists.

Methods: A retrospective review of medical records of all trauma patients who received focused ultrasound examinations from January 1, 1995, through June 30, 1996, at one of two American College of Surgeons-verified Level I trauma centers in the same city was undertaken. Ultrasound examinations were performed by surgery residents at trauma center A (TCA) and by radiologists or radiology residents at trauma center B (TCB). Findings for each patient were compared with the results of computed tomography, diagnostic peritoneal lavage, operative exploration, or observation. Sensitivity, specificity, accuracy, positive predictive value, and negative predictive value were calculated for each group of patients. Comparison of patient charges for the trauma ultrasound examinations at each of the trauma centers was also made.

Results: Patient populations at the two centers were similar except that the mean Injury Severity Score at TCB was higher than at TCA (11.74 vs. 9.6). Sensitivity, specificity, accuracy, or negative predictive value were not significantly different between the two cohorts. A significantly lower positive predictive value for examinations performed by surgery residents was noted and attributed to a lower threshold of the surgery residents to confirm their findings by computed tomography. Billing data revealed that the average charge for trauma sonography by radiologists (TCB) was $406.30. At TCA, trauma sonography did not generate a specific charge; however, a $20.00 sum was added to the trauma activation fee to cover ultrasound machine maintenance and supplies.

Conclusion: Focused ultrasound examination in the trauma suite can be as safely and accurately performed by surgery residents as by radiologists and radiology residents and should be a routine part of the initial trauma evaluation process.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Clinical Competence / standards*
  • Cost Savings
  • Female
  • General Surgery / education*
  • General Surgery / standards
  • Hospital Charges
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency / standards*
  • Kansas
  • Male
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / standards*
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Trauma / diagnostic imaging*
  • Radiology / education*
  • Radiology / standards
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Trauma Centers
  • Ultrasonography / economics
  • Ultrasonography / standards