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J Trauma. 1997 Jun;42(6):1086-90.

Ultrasound based key clinical pathway reduces the use of hospital resources for the evaluation of blunt abdominal trauma.

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  • 1Department of Emergency Medicine, Denver Health Medical Center, Colorado 80204, USA.



Evaluating blunt abdominal trauma remains a resource intensive aspect of trauma care. Recently, emergency department ultrasound has been promulgated as a noninvasive diagnostic alternative. Consequently, we hypothesized that an ultrasound based key clinical pathway (KCP) would reduce the number of diagnostic peritoneal lavage (DPL) and computed tomographic (CT) scans required to evaluate blunt abdominal trauma without increased risk to the patient.


This study was a prospective analysis of patients evaluated for blunt abdominal trauma during a 3-month period using this KCP compared with a 3-month historical cohort.


Data were collected for 486 KCP patients and were compared with 516 patients in the study cohort. No differences were noted regarding demographics, number of laparotomies, or type of injuries. Using the KCP, DPL was reduced from 17 to 4%, and computed tomography from 56 to 26%. Furthermore, the injury severity score increased from 11.6 to 21.5 for DPL patients and from 4.6 to 8.3 for computed tomography patients. Ultrasound exams were used exclusively in 65% of patients.


An ultrasound based KCP resulted in significant reductions in the use of invasive DPL and costly CT scanning in the evaluation of blunt abdominal trauma without risk to the patient.

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