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Aspiration after administration of oral contrast material in children undergoing abdominal CT for trauma

J E Lim-Dunham, J Narra, E C Benya, J S Donaldson
AJR. American Journal of Roentgenology 1997, 169 (4): 1015-8

OBJECTIVE: The practice of routinely administering oral contrast material to children undergoing abdominal CT for blunt trauma is controversial, primarily because of the increased risk of aspiration. The purpose of this study was to determine how often aspiration occurs in this population of children.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: We retrospectively studied 50 children who underwent abdominal CT scans after blunt trauma. All children received diluted 3% water-soluble oral contrast material. The medical record of each child was reviewed for evidence of aspiration pneumonia as many as 48 hr after the CT. In each patient, sections of the CT scan through the lung bases were examined for opacities. When lung opacities were identified, they were classified as atelectasis, confusion, laceration, or nonspecific. We made attenuation measurements of lung opacities larger than 1 cm, and each measurement was compared with the attenuation measurement of contrast material in that patient's stomach. Student's two-tailed t test was used to compare the two measurements.

RESULTS: Four patients were febrile after the CT scan, but in none was aspiration pneumonia suspected to be the cause. The remaining 46 patients did not have any clinical evidence of aspiration. Twelve of the 50 patients had pulmonary opacities revealed by CT that were sufficiently large that attenuation measurements could be obtained. The opacity in one of these patients was classified as nonspecific, and the attenuation was as high as that of contrast material in the stomach.

CONCLUSION: No clinically symptomatic episodes of aspiration pneumonia were found in 50 pediatric patients with blunt trauma who were given oral contrast material for abdominal CT. Although one of the children had CT findings that suggested clinically silent aspiration of oral contrast material, no evidence was found that administration of oral contrast material was harmful.

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