Supplemental Emergent Chest Computed Tomography in the Management of Blunt Torso Trauma

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The efficacy of conventional chest X-ray (CXR) in comparison to chest computed tomography (CCT) in acutely injured blunt trauma patients was examined. Over a 21-month period, 50 patients underwent CXR and CCT according to a standard protocol, and their films and records were reviewed retrospectively.

Hemo- and/or pneumothorax (HPTX) was noted in 12 patients (five by CXR, 12 by CCT). Pulmonary contusion (PC) was identified in ten patients (four by CXR, ten by CCT). Three additional false positive PC were diagnosed by CXR. Therapy changes based upon CCT findings occurred in seven of seven HPTX and five of six PC. The two imaging techniques were complementary in detecting fractures. Atelectasis was a common CCT finding (58% incidence).

Chest X-ray is less sensitive than chest computed tomography in the detection of HPTX (42% vs. 100%) and PC (40% vs. 100%). Emergent chest computed tomography is recommended in stable patients with: 1) blunt high-energy torso trauma, 2) “cross-body” injury pattern, and/or 3) a mechanism of injury suggestive of chest trauma.

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