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J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2012 Dec;73(6):1418-20. doi: 10.1097/TA.0b013e318270bbe4.

Using micropower impulse radar technology to screen for pneumothorax: an international bi-institutional study.

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Division of Trauma, Emergency Surgery and Surgical Critical Care, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

Erratum in

  • J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2013 Jan;74(1):347. multiple author names corrected.



Pneumothoraces (PTXs) are a common entity in thoracic trauma. Micropower impulse radar (MIR) has been able to detect PTXs in surgical patients. However, this technology has not been tested previously on trauma patients. The purpose of this study was to determine the sensitivity and specificity of MIR to detect clinically significant PTXs. We hypothesized that MIR technology can effectively screen trauma patients for clinically significant PTXs.


This was a prospective observational study in Level I trauma centers in Boston, Massachusetts, and Bern, Switzerland. All trauma patients undergoing a chest computed tomographic (CT) scan were eligible for the study. Consent was obtained, and readings were performed within 30 minutes before or after the CT scan. The patients had eight lung fields tested (four on each side). The qualitative and quantitative MIR results were blinded and stored on the device. We then compared the results of the MIR to the CT scan and the need for chest tube drainage. We defined PTXs as clinically significant if they required a chest tube.


Seventy-five patients were enrolled, with a mean age of 46 ± 16 years. Eighty-four percent were male. The screening test took approximately 1 minute. All but two patients had blunt chest trauma. Six true-positives, 6 false-positives, 63 true-negatives, and 0 false-negatives resulted in an overall sensitivity of 100%.


MIR is an easy to use handheld technology that effectively screened patients for clinically significant PTXs, with a sensitivity and negative predictive value of 100%. MIR may be used for rapid, repeatable, and ongoing surveillance of trauma patients.


Diagnostic study, level III.

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