Oral contrast solution and computed tomography for blunt abdominal trauma: a randomized study

R E Stafford, M D McGonigal, J A Weigelt, T J Johnson
Archives of Surgery 1999, 134 (6): 622-6; discussion 626-7

HYPOTHESIS: Oral contrast solution (OC) is unnecessary in the acute computed tomographic (CT) evaluation of the patient with blunt abdominal trauma.

DESIGN: Randomized controlled clinical trial.

SETTING: Level I trauma center at a university-affiliated teaching hospital.

PATIENTS: Five hundred adult patients sustaining blunt abdominal trauma and requiring urgent resuscitation and CT evaluation of the abdomen were eligible for the study. Those patients who were younger than 18 years, pregnant, or in police custody were excluded. One hundred six patients were excluded from the analysis (15 for inappropriate enrollment, 9 because a CT scan had not been performed, 1 owing to inability to accept a nasogastric tube, and 81 owing to missing or incomplete records). Three hundred ninety-four patients with an average age of 36 years, an average Revised Trauma Score of 10, and an average Glasgow Coma Scale score of 12 are included in the analysis.

INTERVENTIONS: Patients were randomized via computer-generated assignment to 1 of 2 groups either receiving OC or not receiving OC (no OC) after placement of a nasogastric tube. All patients received intravenous contrast solution and then underwent helical CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis using the GE HiSpeed Advantage CT scanner (GE Medical Systems, Milwaukee, Wis).

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Abnormal CT results, need for laparotomy, missed gastrointestinal tract and solid organ injuries, nausea, and vomiting.

RESULTS: There were 199 patients in the OC group and 195 patients in the no OC group. Vomiting occurred in 12.9% of patients and the incidence was not different between groups. One hundred five abnormal scans (50 OC and 55 no OC) were obtained and 33 patients with abnormal scans (19 OC and 14 no OC) underwent laparotomy. There was 1 nontherapeutic laparotomy in each group. There was 1 missed small-bowel injury in the OC group (sensitivity, 86%) and no missed small-bowel injuries in the no OC group (sensitivity, 100%). Six bowel injuries were identified at laparotomy in the OC group. Two of the injuries were perforations without contrast extravasation but with pneumoperitoneum in 1. Three bowel injuries were identified in the no OC group, none of which were perforations. Seven of the 9 patients with bowel injury at laparotomy had associated intra-abdominal injury. Specificity for solid organ injury was 94% in the OC group and 57.1% in the no OC group. Sensitivity for solid organ injury was 84.2% in the OC group and 88.9% in the no OC group. The average time to abdominal CT scanning after placement of a nasogastric tube was 39.02+/-18.73 minutes in the no OC group and 45.92+/-24.17 minutes in the OC group (P= .008).

CONCLUSION: The addition of OC to the acute CT protocol for the evaluation of the patient with blunt abdominal trauma is unnecessary and delays time to CT scanning.

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