Article

Diaphragmatic injuries after blunt trauma: are they still a challenge? Reviewing CT findings and integrated imaging.

Department of Diagnostic Imaging, Pineta Grande Medical Center, Via Domiziana Km. 30, Castel Volturno 81030, Italy.
Emergency Radiology 02/2012; 19(3):225-35. DOI:10.1007/s10140-012-1025-4
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Traumatic diaphragmatic rupture is a life-threatening injury that may occur in patients with blunt trauma. At present, supine chest radiographs is the initial, most commonly performed imaging test to evaluate a traumatic injury of the thorax. However, computed tomography (CT) is the imaging tool of choice, as it is the 'gold standard' for the detection of diaphragmatic injury after trauma. In particular, recent literature indicates that multidetector CT with multiplanar reformations has significantly improved in accuracy. Radiologists working in the emergency room should keep in mind the possibility of diaphragmatic injuries and should routinely integrate the axial images CT with multiplanar reformations in order to detect any potential, subtle or doubtful sign of incomplete diaphragmatic injury.

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    ABSTRACT: Diaphragmatic injury is an uncommon but clinically important entity in the setting of trauma. Computed tomography (CT) is widely used to evaluate hemodynamically stable trauma patients. While prior studies have identified CT signs of diaphragm injury in blunt or penetrating trauma, no study has directly compared signs across these two types of injuries. We identified patients with surgically proven diaphragm injuries who underwent CT at presentation. Three reviewers examined each for 12 signs of diaphragm injury, as well as for an overall impression of diaphragm injury. We reviewed a total of 84 patients (37 % blunt trauma, 63 % penetrating). The initial interpreting radiologists discovered 77 % of blunt and 47 % of penetrating injuries (p = 0.01). We found that the majority of signs of diaphragmatic injury were split between those common in blunt trauma and those common in penetrating trauma, with minimal overlap. The presence of at least one blunt injury sign has 90 % sensitivity for diaphragm injury in blunt trauma; the presence of a wound tract traversing the diaphragm has 92 % sensitivity in penetrating trauma. Inter-observer reliability of these signs is also high (κ > 0.65). Penetrating diaphragm injuries present a different spectrum of imaging findings from those in blunt trauma and are underdiagnosed at CT; looking for a wound tract traversing the diaphragm is highly sensitive for diaphragm injury in these cases. Signs of organ or diaphragm fragment displacement are sensitive for blunt diaphragm injuries, consistent with these injuries being caused by increased intra-abdominal pressure.
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