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Pediatr Crit Care Med. 2006 Nov;7(6):551-6.

Blunt bowel and mesenteric injuries in children: Do nonspecific computed tomography findings reliably identify these injuries?

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  • 1Childrens Hospital and Health Center, Critical Care, Trauma, Radiology, Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, Pediatric Critical Care, San Diego, CA, USA.



Abdominal computed tomography has proven accurate for the detection of pediatric solid organ injuries following blunt abdominal trauma but is less reliable in detecting blunt bowel and mesenteric injuries (BBMI). The purpose of this study was to determine the significance of nonspecific findings on abdominal computed tomography (CT) scan in children at risk for BBMI.


Retrospective chart review.


Regional pediatric trauma center.


All patients who received an abdominal CT scan as part of their evaluation following blunt abdominal trauma over a 10-yr period (September 1991 to September 2001).




Individual records were reviewed by one of the authors and analyzed for age, gender, mechanism of injury, diagnostic studies and procedures, results of initial CT scan, treatment, surgical procedures, complications, and outcome. Patients were excluded if they suffered penetrating trauma, had an abdominal CT scan performed at another institution, had a surgical procedure before CT scan, or had incomplete records. A total of 2,114 patients met inclusion criteria. Sixty-five percent were male and ages ranged from 3 wks to 18 yrs. There were 178 patients who had at least one nonspecific finding on abdominal CT scan suggestive of BBMI; 151 patients had one finding, 24 patients had two findings, and three had three findings. The risk of BBMI increased with the number of nonspecific findings (positive predictive value = 11% with at least one finding and 44% with two or more findings). This increase in positive predictive value, however, was accompanied by a reduction in sensitivity (62% and 37%, respectively). A total of 32 patients had surgically proven BBMI. Of these, eight had a single nonspecific finding on CT scan, ten had two findings, and two had three findings (12 patients had no CT findings suggestive of BBMI). There were complications in four of the 32 patients with BBMI and one death (due to laceration of the superior mesenteric artery). The complications appeared to occur independent of the time to surgical intervention.


The presence of multiple nonspecific findings on abdominal CT scan does not reliably predict BBMI in children. Children also appear to suffer complications from BBMI less frequently than adults, regardless of the time to surgery. Therefore, nonspecific findings alone do not warrant surgical exploration. The decision to operate should instead be based on clinical data that include serial physical examinations.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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