Maxillofacial CT Scans In Children

Facial trauma is common, especially in children. And the use of CT scan is even more common, unfortunately for children. What happens when these two events meet?

I’ve noted that many trauma professionals almost reflexively order a face CT when they see any evidence of facial trauma. This ranges from obvious deformity to lacerations to mere contusions. This seems like overkill to me, since most of the face (excluding the mandible) is visualized with the head CT that nearly always accompanies it.

Finally, someone has actually examined the usefulness of the facial CT scan! The trauma group at Albany collaborated with four other Level I trauma centers, performing a retrospective chart and database review of children (defined as less than 18 years old) who underwent both head and maxillofacial CT scans over a five year period. They excluded penetrating injuries and bites. The concordance of facial fractures seen on head CT vs face CT was evaluated.

Here are the factoids:

  • A total of 322 patients with facial fractures was identified, and the most common mechanisms were MVC, pedestrian struck, and bicycle crash
  • Fractures on head CT matched the facial CT in 89% of cases
  • Of the 35 discordant cases, 21 of the head CTs missed nasal fractures, 9 mandibular fractures, 3 orbital fractures, and 2 maxillary fractures
  • Of those 35 cases, only 7 required operative intervention: 6 mandible fractures and 1 maxillary fracture

The authors concluded that the use of head CT alone with a good clinical exam detects nearly all facial fractures requiring repair.

Bottom line: Although this study confirms my own personal bias and experience, it suffers from the usual problems associated with retrospective studies and small numbers. Nonetheless, the results are compelling. This study provides a way to identify nearly all significant fractures while minimizing radiation to the ocular lens, thyroid, and bone marrow.

The key is a good physical exam, as usual. Inspection of the teeth, occlusion testing, and manipulation of the mandible and maxilla should identify nearly all fractures that might require operation.

Once the exam is complete, a standard head CT should be obtained. Identification of displaced fractures on the head CT should prompt a consult to your friendly facial surgeon to see if they really need additional imaging to determine if the fracture requires operation. Frequently, the head CT images are sufficient and nothing further is required.

Here is the algorithm the authors recommend. Although designed for children, it should work for adults just as well.

Reference: Clinical and radiographic predictors of the need for facial CT in pediatric blunt trauma: a multi-institutional study. Trauma Surg Acute Care Open 2022;7:e000899.

The Ultimate Distracting Injury?

By now, we are all very familiar with the concept of the distracting injury. Some of our patients sustain injuries that are so painful that they mask the presence of others. The patient is so distracted by the big one that others just slip their notice.

This concept has been notoriously difficult to test, but there is a reasonable amount of data that suggests it is true. One of the more common and disturbing injury patterns occurs when there is a significant amount of chest wall trauma. When there are fractures focused around the upper chest, cervical spine injuries may be masked, then missed during the exam by trauma professionals.

I’d like to introduce a new concept: the ultimate distracting injury. This goes beyond an injury distracting the patient from another painful problem.

The ultimate distracting injury is one that is so gruesome that it distracts the entire trauma team! It could actually be so distracting that the team might miss multiple injuries!

It’s just human nature. We are drawn to extremes, and that goes for trauma care as well. And it doesn’t matter what your level of training or expertise, we are all susceptible to it. The problem is that we get so engrossed (!) in the disfiguring injury that we ignore the fact that the patient is turning blue. Or bleeding to death from a small puncture wound somewhere else. We forget to focus on the other life threatening things that may be going on.

What are some common ultimate distracting injuries?

  • Mangled extremity
  • Traumatic amputation
  • Impalement
  • Severe soft tissue injury

How do we avoid this common pitfall? It takes a little forethought and mental preparation. Here’s what to do:

  • If you know in advance that one of these injuries is present, prepare your crew or team. Tell them what to expect so they can guard against this phenomenon.
  • Quickly assess to see if it is life threatening. If it bleeds or sucks, it needs immediate attention. Take care of it immediately.
  • If it’s not life threatening, cover it up and focus on the usual priorities (a la ATLS, for example).
  • When it’s time to address the injury in the usual order of things, uncover, assess and treat.

Don’t get caught off guard! Just being aware of this common pitfall can save you and your patient!

When To Call Your Ophthalmology Consultant

And yes, another consultant reference card. As I wrote previously. we sometimes overuse our consultants and call then at inappropriate times. So what if we diagnose an injury in their area of expertise at 2 am? Does it need attention or an operation before morning? If not, why call at that ungodly hour?

Let’s use our consultants wisely! I’ve listed most of the common eye diagnoses that trauma professionals will encounter. There is also an indication of what you need to do, and exactly when to call your consultant.

Unfortunately, this one won’t fit on a 3×5 index card that you can keep in your pocket. I’ve included a printable pdf file, as well as the original Microsoft Word file in case you want to make a few modifications to suit your own hospital.

Enjoy!

When to call Ophthalmology reference card (pdf)

When to call Ophthalmology MS Wordfile (docx)

When To Stop The Massive Transfusion Protocol

Initiating the massive transfusion protocol (MTP) is generally easy. Some centers use the Assessment of Blood Consumption score (ABC). This consists of four easy parameters:

  • Heart rate > 120
  • Systolic blood pressure < 90
  • FAST positive
  • Penetrating mechanism

The presence of two or more indicators reliably predicts a 50% chance of needing lots of blood.

The shock index (SI) is also used. It’s more quantitative, just divide the heart rate by the systolic blood pressure. The normal value is < 0.7. As it approaches 0.9, the risk for massive transfusion doubles. This technique requires a little calculation, but is easily doable.

Or you can just let your trauma surgeons decide when to order it. Unfortunately, this sometimes gets forgotten in the mayhem.

However it got started, your MTP is now humming right along. How do you know when to stop? This is much trickier, and unfortunately can’t be as easily quantified. Here are the general principles:

  • All surgical bleeding must be controlled. Hopefully your patient didn’t get too cold or acidotic during the case, resulting in lots of difficult to control nonsurgical bleeding (oozing).
  • Hemodynamics are stabilizing. This doesn’t necessarily mean they are quite normal yet, just trying to approach it.
  • Vasopressors are off, or at least being weaned.
  • Volume status is normalizing. You may need an echo to help with this assessment.

If you have TEG, it probably wasn’t very useful. Until now. This is the ideal time to run a sample so you can top off any specific products your patient might need.

If you don’t have TEG, get a full coag panel including CBC, INR, PTT, lytes with ionized calcium.

Once the patient is in your ICU, continue monitoring and tweaking their overall hemodynamic and coagulation status until they are approaching normal. Then watch out for additional insults or any new and/or unsuspected bleeding. If this does occur, the threshold for return to the OR should be low. Unfortunately it is common for arteries in spasm to resume bleeding after warming and vasodilation.

When you are finally satisfied that there is no more need for the MTP, let your blood bank know so they can start restocking products and getting ready for the next go around!

When To Call Your Urology Consultant

Trauma professionals don’t always know everything. Sometimes we have to engage a specialist in the care of our patient. And unfortunately, we don’t always know which conditions demand immediate attention and which can wait.

This can lead to overuse of our consultant colleagues and calls  at inappropriate times. So what if we diagnose an injury in their area of expertise at 2 am? Does it need attention or an operation before morning? If not, why call at that ungodly hour? Give them a break!

Let’s use our consultants wisely! I’ve listed most of the common urologic diagnoses that trauma professionals will encounter. There is also an indication of what you need to do, and exactly when to call your consultant.

Here’s a reference sheet formatted at a 3×5 index card that you can keep in your pocket. I’ve included a printable pdf file, as well as the original Microsoft Publisher file in case you want to make a few modifications to suit your own hospital.

Enjoy!

When to call Urology reference card (pdf)

When to call Urology MS Publisher file (pub)

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