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The value of indicated computed tomography scan of the chest and abdomen in addition to the conventional radiologic work-up for blunt trauma patients

Jaap Deunk, Helena M Dekker, Monique Brink, Raoul van Vugt, Michael J Edwards, Arie B van Vugt
Journal of Trauma 2007, 63 (4): 757-63

BACKGROUND: Multidetector computed tomography (CT) is more sensitive and specific in detecting traumatic injuries than conventional radiology is. However, still little is known about the diagnostic value and the therapeutic impact of indicated thoraco-abdominal CT scan when it is performed in addition to the complete conventional radiologic work-up for blunt trauma patients.

METHODS: Clinical and radiologic data from 106 consecutive blunt trauma patients were reviewed. Diagnoses revealed by conventional work-up of the chest, abdomen, pelvis, and thoracolumbar spine were compared with that detected by CT scan of the chest and abdomen. Unexpected findings by CT scan and rejected diagnoses by CT scan were collected. Therapeutic consequences of these diagnoses were determined both theoretically and collected from the medical records.

RESULTS: In 74% (95% confidence interval [CI] 65-82) of the 106 patients, 1 or more diagnoses were demonstrated by chest or abdominal CT scan, whereas they had not been revealed by preceding conventional work-up. This resulted in an actual change of treatment in 34% (95% CI 25-43) of the patients. CT scan of the chest resulted in a change of treatment in 33% (95% CI 23-44) and abdominal CT scan in 16% (95% CI 9-24).

CONCLUSIONS: CT scan of the chest and abdomen has a high diagnostic value in the evaluation of blunt trauma patients, when it is selectively performed in addition to the early conventional radiologic work-up. Unexpected pathologic findings are detected by CT scan in the majority of the patients. These findings result in an adaptation of treatment in a substantial number of the patients.

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