Clinical Judgment Is Not Reliable for Reducing Whole-body Computed Tomography Scanning after Isolated High-energy Blunt Trauma

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The purpose of this study was to test the diagnostic performance of clinical judgment for the prediction of a significant injury with whole-body computed tomography scanning after high-energy trauma.


The authors conducted an observational prospective study in a single level-I trauma center. Adult patients were included if they had an isolated high-energy injury. Senior trauma leaders were asked to make a clinical judgment regarding the likelihood of a significant injury before performance of a whole-body computed tomography scan. Clinical judgments were recorded using a probability diagnosis scale. The primary endpoint was the diagnosis of a serious-to-critical lesion on the whole-body computed tomography scan. Diagnostic performance was assessed using receiver operating characteristic analysis.


Of the 354 included patients, 127 patients (36%) had at least one injury classified as abbreviated injury score greater than or equal to 3. The area under the receiver operating characteristic curve of the clinical judgment to predict a serious-to-critical lesion was 0.70 (95% CI, 0.64 to 0.75%). The sensitivity of the clinical judgment was 82% (95% CI, 74 to 88%), and the specificity was 49% (95% CI, 42 to 55%). No patient with a strict negative clinical examination had a severe lesion (n = 19 patients). The sensitivity of the clinical examination was 100% (95% CI, 97 to 100%) and its specificity was 8% (95% CI, 5 to 13%).


Clinical judgment alone is not sufficient to reduce whole-body computed tomography scan use. In patients with a strictly normal physical examination, whole-body computed tomography scanning might be avoided, but this result deserves additional study in larger and more diverse populations of trauma patients.

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