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J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2013 Mar;74(3):813-7. doi: 10.1097/TA.0b013e3182789399.

Airway, breathing, computed tomographic scanning: duplicate computed tomographic imaging after transfer to trauma center.

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  • 1University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver, Colorado, USA.



Trauma patients imaged at community hospitals often receive duplicate computed tomographic (CT) imaging after transfer to regional trauma centers (RTCs). CT scanning is expensive, is resource intensive, and has acknowledged radiation risk to the patient. The objective of this study was to review and evaluate the frequency, indications, impact on patient management, as well as associated radiation and charges for duplicate CT imaging of trauma patients transferred to our RTC from outside hospitals (OSH).


Patients transferred to our RTC between September 2009 and August 2010 were evaluated prospectively. The OSH patients' charts and provider interviews were used to determine the reasons for repeated scans. The primary outcome was frequency of duplicate CT scan, defined as a repeated CT image of the same body part within 24 hours. The reason for duplicate imaging and impact on patient management was categorized. Radiation exposure and charges for duplicate scans were also determined.


Of the 185 patients transferred to our facility, 177 were eligible. CT examinations at the OSH were performed on 137 patients (77%). A duplicate CT examination occurred in 38 patients (28%). The most common reason for duplicate CT scanning was lack of thin-section multiplanar data, on images sent via CD-ROM (37%). There was a change in management in 16 patients (42%). The patients with duplicate scanning received a median of 10.2 mSv (interquartile range, 6.6-15.7 mSv) of additional radiation, with a median charge of $409 (interquartile range, $307-$734).


More than one third of duplicated scans performed on transferred trauma patients were potentially avoidable, primary owing to inadequate transfer of data from the OSH CT scan. The capacity of a single CD-ROM is insufficient to contain full imaging data from a trauma scan, and establishing direct links to imaging data from OSHs would decrease the number of repeated CT scans performed on transferred trauma patients.


Care management study, level III.

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