Repeat abdominal computed tomography scans after pediatric blunt abdominal trauma: Missed injuries, extra costs, and unnecessary radiation exposure

Steven H. Cook, Julia R. Fielding, J. Duncan Phillips

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Purpose: We hypothesized that pediatric blunt trauma patients, initially evaluated at nontrauma centers with abdominal computed tomography (CT) scans, often undergo repeat scans after transfer. This study was designed to quantify this phenomenon, assess consequences, and elucidate possible causes. Methods: This article is an institutional review board-approved, retrospective chart review of pediatric blunt abdominal trauma patients transferred to a level I trauma center from 2002 to 2007 and evaluated with abdominal CT at the trauma center or at a referring facility. Results: A total of 388 patients met the study criteria, with 6 patients being excluded because of inability to verify outside records resulting in study group of 382 patients. Of those 382 patients, 199 (52%) underwent abdominal CT before transfer. Thirty-six (18%) of those 199 patients underwent repeat CT scanning at our level I trauma center. Of these 36 patients, 19 (53%) were transferred without their outside CT scans, with 10 (53%) of these 19 having significant abdominal injuries. Of the remaining 17, 6 (17%) had repeat scans to assess changes in vital signs, or patient condition, or because of inadequate outside imaging. The remaining 11 (30%) were repeated despite an acceptable outside CT and no change in patient condition. Only 2 of 11 resulted in changed management. Additional radiation delivered from these repeat scans totaled 180 mSv, and additional patient charges totaled more than $110,000. There was an apparent trend toward increased repeat scanning (from 6.7% in 2002 to 16.7% in 2007). Conclusions: Abdominal CT scans, for evaluation of pediatric blunt trauma, are frequently repeated after transfer from outside hospitals. In many cases, repeat scans provide useful diagnostic information. However, more than 80% of repeat scanning is potentially preventable with better education of transport personnel (paramedics, emergency medical technicians, and nurses) and emergency department physicians.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2019-2024
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Pediatric Surgery
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2010


  • Abdominal trauma
  • Computed tomography (CT)
  • Injury
  • Pediatric trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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