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The accuracy of abdominal ultrasound in paediatric trauma
  1. Ross Murphy,
  2. Angaj Ghosh
  1. Department of Emergency Medicine, Manchester Royal Infirmary, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9WL, UK
  1. Correspondence to: Kevin Mackway-Jones, Consultant (kevin.mackway-jones{at}

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Report by Ross Murphy, Senior Clinical Fellow Search checked by Angaj Ghosh, Senior Clinical Fellow

Clinical scenario

An 8 year old boy is taken to the emergency department after falling out of a tree. He has no signs of injury apart from abrasions and tenderness across his upper abdomen; he is haemodynamically stable. He undergoes an abdominal ultrasound that is normal but you wonder how accurate this is at identifying intra-abdominal injury compared with the current gold standard, abdominal computed tomography.

Three part question

In [a paediatric patient with blunt abdominal trauma] how [accurate is an ultrasound scan] at [identifying intra-abdominal injury]?

Search strategy

Medline 1966–12/00 using the OVID interface. {[(exp child OR OR exp pediatrics OR OR AND (exp abdominal injuries OR abdominal] AND (exp tomography, x-ray computed OR OR computerised OR exp ultrasonography OR OR exp ultrasonics OR OR} LIMIT to human AND english.

Search outcome

Altogether 511 papers found of which 505 were irrelevant or of insufficient quality. The remaining six papers are shown in table 1.

Table 1


The evidence indicates a variability in the accuracy of ultrasound at identifying intra-abdominal injury in children. This is probably related to the skill of the ultrasonographer. Ultrasound can have a high diagnostic specificity and it may be useful as part of a rule in strategy in these situations. Focused abdominal sonography for trauma (FAST) seems to be neither sensitive nor specific enough.

Clinical bottom line

Abdominal ultrasound can be used to rule in intra-abdominal fluid or organ damage in children. Negative ultrasound does not rule out intra-abdominal injury and, if clinical suspicion persists, abdominal compted tomography with contrast should be performed.

Report by Ross Murphy, Senior Clinical Fellow Search checked by Angaj Ghosh, Senior Clinical Fellow