Original Article

Emergency Radiology

, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 61-67

First online:

Combined head and abdominal computed tomography for blunt trauma: which patients with minor head trauma benefit most?

  • Sarah R. WuAffiliated withDepartment of Radiology, University of California, Davis Medical Center
  • , Shamim ShakibaiAffiliated withDepartment of Radiology, University of California, Davis Medical Center
  • , John P. McGahanAffiliated withDepartment of Radiology, University of California, Davis Medical Center
  • , John R. RichardsAffiliated withDepartment of Emergency Medicine, University of California, Davis Medical Center Email author 

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Abstract

The widespread availability of computed tomography (CT) in the diagnosis and management of blunt trauma has created the possibility of overuse without clear indications. Some clinicians believe that patients with head injury, intoxication, and/or distracting injury have an unreliable abdominal examination and should undergo combined head and abdomen CT. The objective of this study was to evaluate which patients with minor head trauma benefit most from combined head and abdomen CT. Consecutive blunt trauma patients, with a Glasgow coma scale (GCS) of 14 or 15, who underwent concomitant head and abdomen CT upon admission to a level I trauma center over a 2-year period were retrospectively reviewed. Patient demographics, mechanism of injury, physical exam, hospital course, and radiological and laboratory findings were recorded. Patients were divided into four subgroups based upon the presence or absence of intracranial and/or intraabdominal injury detected by CT. Among the 1,478 blunt head trauma patients, only 18 (1%) patients had both head and abdominal injuries detected by combined CT. One-hundred twelve (8%) patients had only head injuries, and 131 (9%) had only intraabdominal injuries detected. Patients with a GCS of 14 were more likely to have isolated head injury [odds ratio (OR) 3.1, P=0.001], while those with loss of consciousness were more likely to have combined head and intraabdominal injury (OR 6.8, P=0.03) or isolated head injury (OR 1.7, P=0.02). Abdominal tenderness was associated with increased risk of isolated intraabdominal injury (OR 1.8, P=0.0015). Hematuria was associated with increased risk of combined head and intraabdominal injury (OR 8.3, P=0.0004) or isolated intraabdominal injury (OR 7.9, P=0.0001). Patients with loss of consciousness and/or GCS of 14 frequently undergo head CT. The addition of an abdomen CT scan in this patient population should be based on objective clinical criteria such as presence of abdominal tenderness and/or hematuria.

Keywords

Trauma Abdomen Head injury Computed tomography