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Injury. 2015 May;46(5):817-21. doi: 10.1016/j.injury.2014.11.023. Epub 2014 Nov 27.

Do we really rely on fast for decision-making in the management of blunt abdominal trauma?

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Department of Surgery, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, United States.
Department of Surgery, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, United States. Electronic address:



The Focused Assessment with Sonography in Trauma examination (FAST) is currently taught and recommended in the ATLS(®), often as an addendum to the primary survey for patients with blunt abdominal trauma. Although it is non-invasive and rapidly performed at bedside, the utility of FAST in blunt abdominal trauma has been questioned. We designed this study to examine our hypothesis that FAST is not an efficacious screening tool for identifying intra-abdominal injuries.


We performed a retrospective chart review of all patients with confirmatory diagnosis of blunt abdominal injuries with CT and/or laparotomy for a period of 1.5 years (from 7/2009 to 11/2010). FAST was performed by ED residents and considered positive when free intra-abdominal fluid was visualized. Abdominal CT, or exploratory laparotomy findings were used as confirmation of intra-abdominal injury.


A total of 1671 blunt trauma patients were admitted to and evaluated in the Emergency Department during a 1½ year period and 146 patients were confirmed intra-abdominal injuries by CT and/or laparotomy. Intraoperative findings include injuries to the liver, spleen, kidneys, and bowels. In 114 hemodynamically stable patients, FAST was positive in 25 patients, with a sensitivity of 22%. In 32 hemodynamically unstable patients, FAST was positive in 9 patients, with a sensitivity of 28%. A free peritoneal fluid and splenic injury are associated with a positive FAST on univariate analysis, and are the independent predictors for a positive FAST on multiple logistic regression.


FAST has a very low sensitivity in detecting blunt intraabdominal injury. In hemodynamically stable patients, a negative FAST without a CT may result in missed intra-abdominal injuries. In hemodynamically unstable blunt trauma patients, with clear physical findings on examination, the decision for exploratory laparotomy should not be distracted by a negative FAST.


Abdominal trauma; CT scan; FAST; Free peritoneal fluid; Laparotomy; Splenic injury; Ultrasound

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