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Radiology. 2003 Apr;227(1):95-103. Epub 2003 Feb 28.

Blunt abdominal trauma: should US be used to detect both free fluid and organ injuries?

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Division of Radiodiagnostic and Interventional Radiology, Hôpital Cantonal, University of Geneva, 24 rue Micheli-du-Crest, 1211 Geneva-14, Switzerland.



To evaluate abdominal ultrasonography (US) for indirect (with free fluid analysis only) and direct (with free fluid and parenchymal analysis) detection of organ injury in patients with blunt abdominal trauma, with findings at computed tomography (CT) and/or surgery as the standard of diagnosis.


Abdominal US was performed at hospital admission in consecutive patients with blunt abdominal trauma. The presence of free peritoneal fluid and organ injury were recorded and compared with results of abdominal CT in all hemodynamically stable patients. When US results were considered false-negative for free fluid or organ injury compared with CT results, repeat US was performed within 6 hours. Admission and second US results were compared with CT and/or surgical results to determine sensitivity, specificity, negative predictive value, and positive predictive value of US with regard to the presence of free intraperitoneal fluid and/or organ injury.


Two hundred five hemodynamically stable patients underwent abdominal US and CT. CT revealed free fluid in 83 patients and organ injury in 99. Thirty-one (31%) of 99 patients with organ injury did not have free fluid at CT. Three (10%) of the 31 patients required surgery or angiographic embolization. The sensitivity of admission US was 93% (77 of 83 cases) for the diagnosis of free fluid, 41% (39 of 99) for directly demonstrating organ injury, and 72% (71 of 99) for suggesting organ injury by means of both free fluid and organ analysis. At second US, these sensitivities were 96% (80 of 83 cases), 55% (54 of 99) and 84% (83 of 99), respectively.


US is highly sensitive for the detection of free intraperitoneal fluid but not sensitive for the identification of organ injuries. In hemodynamically stable patients, the value of US is mainly limited by the large percentage of organ injuries that are not associated with free fluid.

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