Making the transition: The role of helical CT in the evaluation of potentially acute thoracic aortic injuries

M. S. Parker, T. L. Matheson, A. V. Rao, C. D. Sherbourne, K. G. Jordan, M. J. Landay, G. L. Miller, J. A. Summa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE. The purpose of this study was to show that helical CT could be used at our center in lieu of routine aortography to examine patients who have had serious blunt chest trauma. We also wanted to assess the potential savings of using CT to avoid unnecessary aortography. MATERIALS AND METHODS. The institutional review board approved the parallel imaging - CT immediately followed by aortography - of patients presenting with blunt chest trauma between August 1997 and August 1998. To screen patients for potential aortic injuries, we performed parallel imaging on 142 patients, and these patients comprised out patient population. CT examinations of the patients were reviewed for signs of injury by radiologists who were unaware of each other's interpretations and the aortographic results. Findings of CT examinations were classified as negative, positive, or inconclusive for injury. Aortography was performed immediately after CT. The technical and professional fees for both transcatheter aortography and helical CT were also compared. RESULTS. Our combined kappa value for all CT interpretations was 0.714. The aortographic sensitivity and negative predictive value were both 100%. Likewise, the sensitivity and negative predictive value of CT were 100%. The total costs of performing aortography were estimated at approximately $402,900, whereas those for performing helical CT were estimated at $202,800. CONCLUSION. Helical CT has a sensitivity and negative predictive value equivalent to that of aortography. Using CT to eliminate the possibility of mediastinal hematoma and to evaluate the cause of an abnormal aortic contour in a trauma patient allows us to use aortography more selectively. Avoiding the performance of unnecessary aortography will expedite patient care and reduce costs. We report the results of our experience with CT and how out center successfully made this transition in the initial examination of patients with serious thoracic trauma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1267-1272
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Roentgenology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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