Aims: To evaluate thoracic ultrasound for the detection of haemothorax in patients with thoracic trauma against established investigations.
Methods: Thoracic ultrasound was performed as an extension of the standard focused assessment with sonography for trauma (FAST) protocol used at the Queen’s Medical Centre for the assessment of adult patients with torso trauma. Fluid was sought in both pleural cavities using a hand portable ultrasound system by one of two non-radiologists trained in FAST. Findings were compared against subsequent investigations/procedures performed at the discretion of the attending emergency physician—supine chest radiography, intercostal drain, computed tomography, or thoracotomy. The sensitivity of the technique and the time taken to diagnosis for each investigation were recorded.
Results: Sixty one patients, 54 (89%) after blunt trauma, underwent thoracic ultrasound evaluation during the study. Twelve patients had a haemothorax detected by ultrasound and confirmed by computed tomography or by tube thoracostomy. Four haemothoraces detected on ultrasound were not apparent on trauma chest radiography. There were 12 true positives, 48 true negatives, no false positives, and one false negative scan. The sensitivity of ultrasound was 92% and specificity 100% with a positive predictive value of 100% and negative predictive value 98% for the detection of haemothorax after trauma.
Conclusions: Emergency ultrasound of the chest performed as part of the primary survey of the traumatised patient can rapidly and accurately diagnose haemothorax and is a valuable tool to augment the immediate clinical assessment of these patients.
- FAST, focused assessment with sonography for trauma
- CT, computed tomography
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