Scout anteroposterior and lateral CT scans as a screening test for thoracolumbar spine injury in blunt trauma

Nicole L Sroka, James Combs, Rochella Mood, Vernon Henderson
American Surgeon 2007, 73 (8): 780-5; discussion 785-6
Anteroposterior and lateral radiographs have traditionally been required to clear the thoracolumbar spine (TLS) after blunt trauma. The routine use of CT scans led to a pilot trial to determine if CT scout images can accurately evaluate the TLS after blunt trauma. The purpose of the study was to determine the sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive values of CT scout images for the evaluation of the TLS. Patients admitted to our level II trauma center requiring CT evaluation of the chest, abdomen, and pelvis were considered for this study. Patients with blunt trauma, without neurologic deficits, or other evidence of spinal trauma on physical examination were included. Charts were reviewed for demographics, scout CT image findings, and full CT scan findings. Scout CT images were compared with reconstructed spine CT scans from chest, abdomen, and pelvis CT scans. Injuries to the TLS were defined as compression fractures, burst fractures, and subluxation. One hundred seventeen patients were included. Average Injury Severity Score was 25.1 (+/-9.4) and average age was 42.5 years. Twenty-three patients had diffuse back tenderness, three had ecchymosis, and 64 had distracting injuries. Twelve injuries to the TLS were present; 11 were seen on scout images. Sensitivity was 92 per cent, specificity 100 per cent, positive predictive value 100 per cent, and negative predictive value 99 per cent. Scout CT images provide an accurate assessment of the TLS after blunt trauma. We are encouraged by the results and will continue to investigate to identify the criteria that allow scout CT images to safely replace anteroposterior and lateral radiographs in the evaluation of the TLS in blunt trauma.

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