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J Trauma. 1993 Apr;34(4):488-95.

Ultrasound in blunt abdominal and thoracic trauma.

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Department of Surgery, Zurich University Hospital, Switzerland.


Between July 1989 and June 1991, 312 patients with blunt thoracic or abdominal injuries were examined prospectively. Sonographic examination was performed by surgeons in the emergency room using a mobile ultrasound unit. In 113 (36.2%) cases pathologic findings were demonstrated sonographically. These included 47 cases of hemothorax, 11 pericardial effusions, 52 cases of intra-abdominal fluid, 24 lesions of intra-abdominal organs, and 10 cases of retroperitoneal hematoma. Physical examination findings were positive in 96 (30.8%), negative in 63 (20.2%), and equivocal in 153 (49.0%). Two hundred thirty-nine patients had between one and eight injuries in addition to the blunt abdominal or thoracic trauma. These patients had an average Injury Severity Score (ISS) of 19.9 (range, 1 to 75). The 73 patients with isolated blunt trauma of the thorax or abdomen had an ISS of 4.9 (range, 0-25). None of the 66 patients (21.2%) with positive clinical findings and negative sonographic examination results had to be operated on later in the course of treatment, while 5 (36%) of 14 patients (4.5%) with negative physical examination findings and positive sonographic findings had to undergo surgery. The sensitivity for the demonstration of intra-abdominal fluid and organ lesions was 98.1% and 41.4%, respectively. The overall sensitivity and specificity of the ultrasonic examination were 90.0% and 99.5%, respectively.

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