Screening Ultrasound in Blunt Abdominal Trauma

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Ultrasound is used worldwide to evaluate patients with blunt abdominal trauma. Sometimes referred to as an extension of the physical exam, ultrasound can rapidly help distinguish patients with injury requiring computerized tomography (CT) or surgery (typically 5%-10%) from those with no abdominal injury (> 90%). Ultrasound has several advantages in the setting of trauma. It is portable, integrates easily into the resuscitation of trauma victims without causing delay in therapy, is noninvasive, and has no associated morbidity. Limitations of ultrasound include its dependence on operator skill and technique, poor image quality in patients with morbid obesity or extensive subcutaneous gas, limited visualization of the retroperitoneum, and less reliable localization of visceral injury compared to CT. Successful use of abdominal ultrasound in the setting of trauma can be maximized with adequate sonographer training, appreciation of technical limitations, and adherence to an appropriate trauma ultrasound protocol.

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