Multidetector CT of Blunt Abdominal Trauma

Authors: Jorge A. Soto, MD and Stephan W. Anderson, MD

The morbidity, mortality, and economic costs resulting from trauma in general, and blunt abdominal trauma in particular, are substantial. The “panscan” (computed tomographic [CT] examination of the head, neck, chest, abdomen, and pelvis) has become an essential element in the early evaluation and decision-making algorithm for hemodynamically stable patients who sustained abdominal trauma. CT has virtually replaced diagnostic peritoneal lavage for the detection of important injuries. Over the past decade, substantial hardware and software developments in CT technology, especially the introduction and refinement of multidetector scanners, have expanded the versatility of CT for examination of the polytrauma patient in multiple facets: higher spatial resolution, faster image acquisition and reconstruction, and improved patient safety (optimization of radiation delivery methods). In this article, the authors review the elements of multidetector CT technique that are currently relevant for evaluating blunt abdominal trauma and describe the most important CT signs of trauma in the various organs. Because conservative nonsurgical therapy is preferred for all but the most severe injuries affecting the solid viscera, the authors emphasize the CT findings that are indications for direct therapeutic intervention.