Use of Spiral Computed Tomography for the Assessment of Blunt Trauma Patients with Potential Aortic Injury

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The purpose of this study was to prospectively examine the accuracy of contrast-enhanced spiral thoracic computed tomography (CEST-CT) for direct detection of traumatic aortic injury resulting from blunt thoracic trauma.


During a 25-month period, all blunt trauma patients who had abnormal mediastinal contours on admission chest radiographs underwent CEST-CT. The presence and location of mediastinal blood and any direct signs of aortic injury, such as pseudoaneurysm, were recorded. Computed tomographic results were compared with results of aortography, when performed, surgery, or clinical status at discharge.


There were 7,826 patients classified as having blunt trauma admitted during the study. Of these, 1,104 (14.3%) had CEST-CT performed. Mediastinal hemorrhage was detected on 118 (10.7%) of all thoracic computed tomographic scans. Direct evidence of aortic injury was detected in 24 patients (20.3%) with mediastinal hemorrhage and 2.2% of all patients undergoing CEST-CT. In this prospective series, CEST-CT was 100% sensitive based on clinical follow-up; it was 99.7% specific, with 89% positive and 100% negative predictive values and an over-all diagnostic accuracy of 99.7%.


CEST-CT is a valuable ancillary study for the detection of traumatic aortic injury. Spiral computed tomography is accurate for the detection and localization of both hemomediastinum and direct signs of aortic injury.

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