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ABDOMINAL IMAGING Table of Contents   
Year : 2005  |  Volume : 15  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 167-173
Prospective evaluation of blunt abdominal trauma by computed tomography

Department of Radio diagnosis, Rangaraya Medical College & Govt. General Hospital, Kakinada- 533001, Andhra Pradesh, India

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Objectives: To evaluate the usefulness of emergency computed tomography in detection of intra-abdominal injury in patients with blunt abdominal trauma and to provide information that could accurately determine the choice of management (operative versus non-operative), thereby reducing the non-therapeutic laparotomy rates. The emphasis was to detect both free fluid (haemoperitoneum) and visceral lesions as indicators of intraabdominal injury. Materials and methods: Two hundred and ten patients with blunt abdominal trauma were evaluated in a period of 20 months, of whom sixty-three patients were positive. The various organ injuries were graded, and scoring applied for haemoperitoneum. The management, therapeutic or otherwise was decided based on the CT findings. Results: Patients with severe grades of injury and with large haemoperitoneum required surgeries. The overall sensitivity, specificity and positive predictive value for trauma detection by CT was 93%, 100% and 100% respectively. Conclusion: CT quantification of haemoperitoneum and organ injury grading is helpful in guiding the surgeon towards patient management. CT is accurate, safe, and has all the attributes to make it an initial investigation of choice in haemodynamically stable patients of blunt abdominal trauma.

Keywords: CT in Blunt Abdominal Trauma, Haemoperitoneum

How to cite this article:
Kumar M M, Venkataramanappa M, Venkataratnam I, Kumar N V, Babji K. Prospective evaluation of blunt abdominal trauma by computed tomography. Indian J Radiol Imaging 2005;15:167-73

How to cite this URL:
Kumar M M, Venkataramanappa M, Venkataratnam I, Kumar N V, Babji K. Prospective evaluation of blunt abdominal trauma by computed tomography. Indian J Radiol Imaging [serial online] 2005 [cited 2020 May 28];15:167-73. Available from:

   Introduction Top

Trauma is the leading cause of death in persons under 45 years of age, with 10% of these fatalities attributable to abdominal injury. Indian statistics reveal a disproportionate involvement of younger age groups (15-25 yrs).

The Indian fatality rates for trauma are 20 times that for developed countries [1]. About 30% of such deaths are thought to be preventable. Swift recognition of injury with prompt and appropriate treatment to reduce morbidity and mortality is the goal of modern trauma care and hence accurate diagnosis is essential.

Contrast enhanced CT, and in particular the use of faster helical CT, has revolutionalised the management of haemodynamically unstable patient. Its advent has practically eliminated the need for invasive DPL. The higher accuracy of CT in solid viscera assessment, including contained intraparenchymal organ injuries, and assessment of the retroperitoneum has defined its role in trauma.

CT as the sole modality enables evaluation of other associated injuries in addition to global evaluation of abdominal trauma in haemodynamically stable patients.

   Materials and methods Top

In our study conducted, during a period of 20 months from August 2002 to March 2004, we have evaluated 210 patients suspected to have intra-abdominal injury in patients with trauma, admitted in Government General Hospital, Kakinada. All the cases were referred to us as emergencies from all the surgical and allied specialities.

All the cases were evaluated on SOMATOM AR HP (SEIMENS, Erlangen, Germany) helical CT scan unit.

All the patients were also subjected to ultrasonogram on a SONOLINE ADARA (SEIMENS, Erlangen, Germany) ultrasonogram black and white machine.

The criteria for selection for CT in patients with abdominal trauma included:

1. Clinical suspicion of intra-abdominal injury.

2. Haemodynamically stable patient.

3. Multi-trauma patients.

4. A positive ultrasonography study.

The haemodynamically unstable patients with obvious peritoneal signs and progressive abdominal distension were taken up for surgery immediately and were excluded from the study.


A pitch of 2 and a reconstruction interval of 8mm were used as the scanning technique. For few cases, unenhanced study was done prior to the contrast study, with delayed incorporated whenever there was suspicion of kidney or urinary tract injury.

All patients received intravenous bolus of about 100 ml of non-ionic iodinated contrast agent.

Free fluid quantification was done as a guide for decision to operate. This was done according system given by Federle and Jeffrey in 1983[2], and was graded as small, moderate or large.

Individual organ injuries were graded according to the OIS system and injury severity grades given by Mirvis et al, [3],[4] and Moore, E.E. et al [5],[6].

   Results Top

Of the 210 patients evaluated by us in the study, 166 patients were males and 44 patients were females giving a male to female ratio of about 4:1, as males have a more outdoor nature of work and more travel. The predominant age group involved between 21-30 years, constituting 31.90% of the total patients.

   Etiological factors Top

Our study revealed that road traffic accidents involving both vehicle occupants and pedestrians accounted for 155 cases. Falls from a height and assaults accounted for 32 and 23 cases respectively.

   Ct findings Top

The patients with haemoperitoneum or demonstrable abdominal visceral injury or both were considered as positive for intra abdominal injury. The patients whose examination did not reveal either visceral injury or haemoperitoneum were considered as negative for intra abdominal injury.

In our study consisting of 210 patients, we reported 63 patients as positive for abdominal injury and 147 patients as negative.

Out of the 63 positive patients reported in our study, haemoperitoneum was detected in 56 patients, visceral injury in 47 patients and 3 patients had injury to the abdominal wall secondary to trauma without visceral injury [Table - 1].

Among the visceral injuries, spleen was the most common organ involved (36.17%) followed by the liver, which accounted for 29.79% of cases.

Location of hemoperitoneum: 1. Perisplenic space, 2. Perihepatic space, 3. Morison's pouch, 4. Left paracolic gutter, 5.Cul-de-sac in pelvis.

   Haemoperitoneum Top

In our study 56 patients out of the 210 patients evaluated had haemoperitoneum as one of the findings [Table - 2]. Of these, 35 cases were associated with visceral injuries at the time of diagnosis. The other 21 cases were diagnosed as isolated hemoperitoneum, though a diagnosis of mesenteric injury was suggested in 3 cases. CT quantification was done for these cases as suggested by Federle et al. [2], and they were classified as having mild, moderate or large hemoperitoneum [Table - 3][Table - 4]. This quantification was used as an indicator for the need for laparotomy in patients with haemoperitoneum. In our study, cases of haemoperitoneum showed a density of about 40 - 55 Hounsfield units, except in one case of perforation to small bowel where the density was about 25 - 30 units.

Following laparotomy, mesenteric injury was noted in 5 cases of isolated hemoperitoneum. In one case, a small hepatic laceration was seen at laparotomy along the falciform ligament which was missed at initial scan, and was diagnosed as moderate hemoperitoneum. In another case, no visceral injury was detected at laparotomy but about 500 ml of blood was drained. One case with a large collection in pelvis revealed an injury to urinary bladder at laparotomy. CT was 100% sensitive in detecting haemoperitoneum.

   Visceral injury Top

In our study we reported 47 cases of visceral injury. These injuries were involving either one organ or more than one viscera. 43 out of these 47 cases were associated with haemoperitoneum. Thus majority of patients (91.49%) with visceral injury had associated haemoperitoneum.

Out of the 47 cases with visceral injury 40 cases went for laparotomy and 7 cases were managed conservatively. All the cases managed conservatively had uneventful recovery during the follow up period.

Injuries to the hepato biliary system: [Figure - 1], [Table - 5]

In our study we found 14 cases with hepatic injury. One case of hepatic laceration along falciform ligament was missed at diagnosis found at laparotomy. All the cases were associated with haemoperitoneum and all cases went for laparotomy in our study. Majority (65%) of the injuries were grade III. Our study showed 100% association with haemoperitoneum. No case of biliary injury was reported in our study. The sensitivity, positive predictive values are 93.3%, 100% respectively.

Splenic injury: [Figure - 2], [Table - 6]

In our study we reported 17 cases with splenic injury. They constituted 26.98% of positive cases. One patient had an associated retroperitoneal hematoma. Most (53%) of the cases, belonged to grade III. Four patients, two belonging to grade I and one each belonging to grades II, and III were managed conservatively and the rest underwent laparotomy. A CT based score devised by Resciniti et al. [7], was applied to all these patients and those who were managed conservatively were found to have a score of less than three. Out of the 17 cases 14 were associated with haemoperitoneum giving an 82.35% association with haemoperitoneum. In our study we could diagnose all cases of splenic injuries and the sensitivity, positive predictive value and negative predictive values for splenic injuries are 100%.

Pancreatic and retroperitoneal injury :[Figure - 3], [Table - 9]

We had two cases of pancreatic injury and one case of retroperitoneal haematoma. The case of retroperitoneal haematoma was associated with splenic laceration. Of the two cases of pancreatic injury, one was a case of acute pancreatitis following trauma who presented after a week of injury. This patient was managed conservatively. The other was a case of hematoma within the pancreas with a grade V injury which was not detected on initial ultrasonogram.

Renal injuries: [Figure - 4], [Table - 10]

We detected 3 cases of renal injury in our study. They constituted about 4.76% of total positive cases for abdominal injury. One case was a grade V injury associated with retroperitoneal haematoma for which nephrectomy was done. The other two cases showed perinephric haematomas with grade III injuries. Open drainage was done for these two cases.

Bladder injuries:

We had 2 cases of bladder injury. Both of the cases were extra peritoneal bladder rupture. The diagnosis was missed in one case and laparotomy was performed for the presence of moderate to large hemoperitoneum with a hematoma in pelvis. In the other case, diagnosis was suggested by the presence of clots within the bladder. We found that CT was not as sensitive for diagnosis of bladder injuries as with other abdominal visceral injuries.

Bowel and mesenteric injuries: [Table - 11]

Haemoperitoneum was detected in all cases. In our study we could detect only 50% of bowel and mesenteric injury, giving sensitivity for bowel injuries as 66.7% [Table - 12]

Injury to testis:

In our study, we reported one case of testicular injury which occurred following an assault. The patient had rupture of right testis with haematoma of the right hemiscrotum. His other abdominal viscera were normal.

Abdominal wall injury:

We reported three cases of abdominal wall injury. Two cases were intramuscular haematomas and one case was that of a subcutaneous haematoma, occurring in the anterior and right lateral abdominal walls following blunt trauma to the abdomen.

   Discussion Top

The importance of CT in the diagnosis of abdominal trauma lies in its accuracy of identifying injuries that require early exploration and provides assessment of the severity of the injury which helps deciding the management. The rate of negative laparotomy is reduced by avoiding surgical intervention in cases that can be managed conservatively.

Though US is sensitive and a widely available preliminary investigative modality, it is inferior in detecting retroperitoneal and bowel injuries, and is operator dependent. Availability of CT is still limited, but it is diagnostically superior to US with its biggest advantage being the ability to assess the severity of trauma and providing a guide to further management. CT can also simultaneously assess other injuries related to trauma. Haemodynamic instability of the patient is a major deterrent for CT examination, although this forms an indication for operative intervention in patients with abdominal trauma.

CT findings:

Our study results reveal that 30% of the patients who were referred to us were positive for intra-abdominal injury, and 70% of the patients were negative. Udekwu PO et al [9] in 1996 reported 24.2% positive cases in their evaluation of 256 cases with abdominal trauma.


Our study revealed haemoperitoneum in 56 (about 89%) of 63 positive cases. 21 (37.50%) of these cases were diagnosed as isolated hemoperitoneum, without solid organ injury. A quantification system devised by Federle et al [2] was used to grade the haemoperitoneum in these cases. This grading was used as an indicator to predict the need for laparotomy in patients with haemoperitoneum. In a study by Brasel KJ et al (1998), [10] there were 6 small bowel injuries detected out of 13 cases of hemoperitoneum without solid organ injury at laparotomy, which is about 46%. In another study by Mallik Kshitish, et al (2000), [11] 13 cases out of 21 were managed conservatively based on CT quantification of haemoperitoneum. Our findings correlated with their study in that we found good correlation of CT quantification of hemoperitoneum with management approach.

According to study of 256 cases by Udekwu PO et al (1996), [9] injury-specific sensitivities were lowest in injuries of the pancreas (0%), intestinal tract (41.6%), and bladder (50%). We recorded a similar sensitivity in cases of bowel and bladder injuries.

Nolan BW, (1995), [12] concluded in their study that CT scan is insufficient diagnostic modality and may result in missed injuries to mesentery and small bowel. In our study we had a similar experience and could detect only 50% of bowel and mesenteric injury.

The CT-OIS is reliable system that helps in deciding patient management, in that injuries with grade I and II can be manged conservatively and rarely require laparotomy [Table - 13].

A scoring system devised by Resciniti et al was applied and it was inferred that patients who were managed conservatively had a score of less than three. However, according to a study by Umlas and Cronan, (1991), [13] this system is not completely reliable in predicting the outcome of nonsurgical management, 63 whereas we found the scoring system to be a useful guide for management.

Of all the 147 cases reported as negative none of them required surgery, giving CT 100% accuracy in reporting a negative study, thus making it a highly specific investigation. All these patients were discharged following an uneventful follow up. Our study results correlated well with the studies conducted by Udekwu et al [9] in 1996 (reported 97.6% accuracy).

To conclude, in our evaluation of blunt abdominal trauma in 210 patients we observed a sensitivity of 93% in detection of visceral lesions and haemoperitoneum, the specificity was 100% and the positive predictive value was 100%. Peitzman AB (1986) [14], Sriussadaporn (1993) [15], Udekwu PO (1996) [9] reported similar experience.

CT also proved to be decisive in predicting the need for surgery in trauma patients. CT quantification of haemoperitoneum and organ injury grading is helpful in guiding the surgeon towards patient management. The extent of visceral injury was better appreciable on CT than on ultrasonogram.

The main pitfalls include its lower accuracy in detection of bowel and mesenteric injuries and bladder injuries. CT also has limitations in being an expensive investigation and requiring radiation exposure and can only be routinely done in haemodynamically stable patients.

CT has a very high negative predictive value and a low false negative rate. A negative CT scan needs only observation of the patient.

   References Top

1.K. Park. Textbook of Preventive and Social Medicine.17th Edition, 2002.   Back to cited text no. 1    
2.Federle MP, Jeffrey RB Jr. Hemoperitoneum Studied by Computed Tomography. Radiology 1983; 148:187-192  Back to cited text no. 2  [PUBMED]  
3.Mirvis SE, Whitley NO, Vainwright JR, Gens DR. Blunt hepatic trauma in adults: CT-based classification and correlation with prognosis and treatment. Radiology 1989; 171:27-32.   Back to cited text no. 3  [PUBMED]  
4.Mirvis SE, Whitely NO, Gens DR. Blunt splenic trauma in adults: CT based classification and correlation with prognosis and treatment. Radiology 1989; 171: 33-39.  Back to cited text no. 4    
5.Moore EE, et al (1990) Journal of Trauma-Injury Infection and Critical Care, 30, 1427-1429.   Back to cited text no. 5    
6.Moore EE, et al (1989) Journal of Trauma-Injury Infection and Critical Care, 29, 1664-1666.  Back to cited text no. 6    
7.Resciniti A, Fink MP, Raptopoulos V, Davidoff A, Silva WE. Nonoperative management of adult splenic trauma: development of a computed tomographic scoring system that detects appropriate candidates for expectant management. J Trauma 1988; 28:828-831.   Back to cited text no. 7  [PUBMED]  
8.Lee F. Rogers. Radiology of skeletal trauma. 3rd edition. W.B.Saunders, 2002: 163-164.  Back to cited text no. 8    
9.Udekwu PO, Gurkin B, Oller DW. The use of computed tomography in blunt abdominal injuries. Am Surg. 1996 Jan; 62(1):56-9.   Back to cited text no. 9    
10.Brasel KJ, Olson CJ, Stafford RE, Johnson TJ. Incidence and significance of free fluid on abdominal computed tomographic scan in blunt trauma. J Trauma. 1998 May; 44(5): 889-92.  Back to cited text no. 10    
11.Mallik Kshitish, Vashisht Sushma, Thakur Sanjay, Srivastava DN, Comparative Evaluation of Ultrasonography and CT in Patients with Abdominal Trauma: A Prospective Study Ind J Radiol Imag 2000; 10.   Back to cited text no. 11    
12.Nolan BW, Gabram SG, Schwartz RJ, et al: Mesenteric injury from blunt abdominal trauma. Am Surg 61: 501-506, 1995.  Back to cited text no. 12    
13.Umlas S-L, Cronan JJ. Splenic trauma: can CT grading systems enable prediction of successful nonsurgical treatment? Radiology, 1991;178: 481-487.   Back to cited text no. 13    
14.Peitzman AB, Makaroun MS, Slasky BS, et al: Prospective study of computed tomography in initial management of blunt abdominal trauma. J Trauma 26: 585-592, 1986.  Back to cited text no. 14    
15.Sriussadaporn S. CT scan in blunt abdominal trauma. Injury. 1993 Sep; 24(8): 541-4.  Back to cited text no. 15    

Correspondence Address:
M M Kumar
Government General Hospital, Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh,
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0971-3026.28794

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[Figure - 1], [Figure - 2], [Figure - 3], [Figure - 4]


[Table - 1], [Table - 2], [Table - 3], [Table - 4], [Table - 5], [Table - 6], [Table - 7], [Table - 8], [Table - 9], [Table - 10], [Table - 11], [Table - 12], [Table - 13]

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