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AJR Am J Roentgenol. 1999 Apr;172(4):905-11.

Sonography in a clinical algorithm for early evaluation of 1671 patients with blunt abdominal trauma.

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Department of Radiology, Leiden University Medical Center, The Netherlands.



The purpose of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of sonography in our algorithm when differentiating patients with blunt abdominal trauma who need immediate surgery from patients who would benefit from further diagnostic workup or who need no treatment.


We performed abdominal sonography as the primary screening tool in 1671 consecutive patients in our prospective study. Radiologists performed sonography in the trauma room within minutes of the arrival of each patient. Hemodynamic instability in conjunction with positive sonographic findings led to emergency laparotomy. Otherwise, positive sonographic findings warranted additional diagnostic tests. Observing free fluid or organ injury caused us to categorize sonographic findings as positive.


Sonography correctly identified all patients requiring emergency laparotomy. No inconclusive laparotomies were performed in this group. The sensitivity of sonography for revealing intraabdominal injury was 88%, the specificity was 100%, and the accuracy was 99%. In 132 patients (8%), abdominal CT was performed. CT revealed relevant posttraumatic abnormalities in 61% of all patients. Four hundred seventy patients with negative sonographic findings were discharged approximately 12 hr after admission; two of these patients (0.4%) were mistakenly discharged. Trauma scores did not influence the efficacy of sonography.


Our algorithm that uses sonography as the primary diagnostic tool provides accurate, fast, cost-effective, and noninvasive initial management of patients with blunt abdominal trauma. Our test characteristics were excellent indicators of the need for emergency laparotomy. Sonography also achieves high values in revealing relevant injury. Our algorithm produced medically satisfactory and economically prudent management of patients with blunt abdominal trauma.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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