Category Archives: Imaging

EAST 2017 #5: Subarachnoid Hemorrhage, Neurosurgical Consults, and Repeat Head CT

Neurosurgical involvement in the management of simple traumatic brain injury (TBI) has been slowly dwindling over the past several years. This is the result of the general consensus that very few of these patients progress to need neurosurgical procedures.

A group at Wright State University in Dayton sought to define the progression of one specific finding in TBI, the subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH). Secondarily, the wanted to determine if a neurosurgery consultation was warranted in these patients.

They performed a five year retrospective review of their registry data, identifying patients with both mild TBI (GCS 13-15) and SAH. They excluded patients with any other brain lesion on CT.

Here are the factoids:

  • 301 patients were enrolled during the 5 year period
  • All had a neurosurgical consultation
  • Time between the initial CT and a followup scan was about 11 hours
  • 91% showed stable or resolving SAH on the followup scan
  • 9% showed a worsening SAH or additional lesions on the repeat scan

Bottom line: The authors conclude that initial neurosurgical consultation is not needed, since only 9% of patients have worrisome findings on repeat CT. They do, however, recommend that the practice of repeat scanning be continued because of this same number.

Our trauma service looked at this issue a year ago, and determined that most of these lesions either do not progress, or never require any intervention if they do, with a few notable exceptions. For that reason, we abandoned both neurosurgical consultation and repeat CT scans for patients with non-aneurysmal SAH, a single parenchymal hemorrhage, or linear skull fractures. We continue to do both for patients with epidural and/or subdural hemorrhage. You can download a copy of this protocol here.

Questions and comments for the authors/presenters:

  • Did you look at platelet count or INR in the study. Were patients excluded based on abnormal values?
  • Did every patient get a repeat scan?
  • Break down the lesions in the 9% of patients who had some sort of progression or new finding. Did you see any common themes (age, chronic alcohol use, etc.)?
  • Did you encounter any patients with “non-central SAH”, that might indicate an aneurysm? How were they dealt with?
  • How has or will your trauma service change its practice based on your findings.

Click here to go the the EAST 2017 page to see comments on other abstracts.

Related posts:

Reference:   Management of subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) by the trauma service: are repeat CT scanning & routine neurosurgical consultation necessary? Poster #16, EAST 2017.

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EAST 2017 #2: CT Scan After Recent Operative Exploration for Penetrating Trauma

The general rule for penetrating trauma, especially gunshots to the abdomen, is that you don’t need to obtain a CT scan to help you decide to go to the OR. (Of course, there are a few exceptions.) And the corollary has always been that you don’t need to get a CT scan after you operate for penetrating trauma.

But the group at UCSF is questioning this. They retrospectively looked at 5 years of data on patients who underwent trauma laparotomy without preoperative imaging. They focused on new findings on CT that were not reported during the initial operation.

Here are the factoids:

  • 230 of 328 patients undergoing a trauma lap did not have preop imaging
  • 85 of the 230 patients (37%) underwent immediate postop CT scan. These patients tended to have a gunshot mechanism and higher injury severity score.
  • Unreported injuries were found in 45% (!) and tended to be GU and orthopedic in nature
  • 47% of those with unreported injuries found required some sort of intervention

Bottom line: This is a very interesting and potentially practice changing study. However, there is some opportunity for bias since only select patients underwent postop scanning. Nevertheless, one in five patients who did get a postop scan had an injury that required some sort of intervention. This study begs to be reworked to further support it, and to develop specific criteria for postop scanning.

Questions/comments for the authors/presenters:

  • Be sure to break down your results by gunshot vs stab. This will help formulate those criteria I mentioned above.
  • Specifically list the occult injuries and interventions required. In some studies, those “required interventions” are pretty weak (urology consult vs an actual procedure).
  • How exactly did the operating surgeons determine who to send to CT? Was it surgeon-specific (i.e. one surgeon always did, another never did)? Was it due to operative findings (hole near the kidney)? This is also needed when developing specific criteria for postop imaging.
  • Nice poster!

Click here to go the the EAST 2017 page to see comments on other abstracts.

Related posts:

Reference: Routine tomography after recent operative exploration for penetrating trauma: what injuries do we miss?  Poster #14, EAST 2017.

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EAST 2017 #1: Accuracy of CT Scans Done Outside The Trauma Center

Imaging prior to transfer to a trauma center has been the subject of debate for years. The focus has primarily been on the necessity of these scans, and the sheer numbers that are done. For the most part, the discussion has been driven by the potential for radiation exposure.

This paper, from the University of Oklahoma, takes a different approach. The authors looked at the accuracy and adequacy of imaging performed prior to transfer to their Level I trauma center.

Patients were enrolled prospectively over an 8 month period in 2012. Outside images were interpreted by a single radiologist who was blinded to the outside interpretation.  If images were repeated, they were compared to the first scan, and the reason for the redo was noted.

Here are the factoids:

  • 235 consecutive transfer patients were enrolled, and 203 who had at least one CT scan were included in the final dataset
  • 76% of these patients had additional imaging performed once they arrived at the trauma center
  • Reasons for additional images were insufficient workup (76%) and technical inadequacy (31%)
  • Missed injuries were detected on outside CT scans 49% of the time, and the majority of them (90%) were deemed clinically significant
  • Missed injuries on a repeated scan were present in 54% of patients, and 76% were clinically significant
  • Overall, 73% of images (either outside or repeat) contained additional injuries

Bottom line: This is a new approach to assessing the value of outside imaging prior to transfer to a trauma center. I have always recommended that trauma centers work with their referral partners to assure them we don’t need them to do the workup for us. I encourage them to obtain only what they need to decide if they can keep the patient. But once they find anything that they cannot treat, stop all workup and prepare to transfer.

Questions/comments for the authors/presenters:

  • Why did you use such an old dataset?
  • Is this a prospective enrollment/retrospective analysis study designed to use an existing, old dataset?
  • How did you decide that outside imaging represented an inadequate workup? Do you have a diagnostic imaging guideline that you follow?
  • What are the credentials for your trauma radiologist?
  • How did you determine that a missed injury was clinically significant? Be sure to provide a list and explanation during your presentation.
  • Be sure to separate out missed injuries seen on the original CT from new missed injuries seen on the repeat scan.
  • Congratulations on looking at an old problem in a new way!

Click here to go the the EAST 2017 page to see comments on other abstracts.

Related posts:

Reference: Adequacy and accuracy of non-tertiary trauma center computed tomography: what are we missing? Paper #7, EAST 2017.

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Pan Scanning for Elderly Falls?

The last abstract for the Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons that I will review deals with doing a so-called “pan-scan” for ground level falls. Apparently, patients at this center have been pan-scanned for years, and they wanted to determine if it was appropriate.

This was a retrospective trauma registry review of 9 years worth of ground level falls. Patients were divided into young (18-54 years) and old (55+ years) groups. They were included in the study if they received a pan-scan.

Here are the factoids:

  • Hospital admission rates (95%) and ICU admission rates (48%) were the same for young and old
  • ISS was a little higher in the older group (9 vs 12)
  • Here are the incidence and type of injuries detected:
Young (n=328) Old (n=257)
TBI 35% 40%
C-spine 2% 2%
Blunt Cereb-vasc inj * 20% 31%
Pneumothorax 14% 15%
Abdominal injury 4% 2%
Mortality * 3% 11%

 * = statistically significant

Bottom line: There is an ongoing argument, still, regarding pan-scan vs selective scanning. The pan-scanners argue that the increased risk (much of which is delayed or intangible) is worth the extra information. This study shows that the authors did not find much difference in injury diagnosis in young vs elderly patients, with the exception of blunt cerebrovascular injury.

Most elderly patients who fall sustain injuries to the head, spine (all of it), extremities and hips. The torso is largely spared, with the exception of ribs. In my opinion, chest CT is only for identification of aortic injury, which just can’t happen from falling over. Or even down stairs. And solid organ injury is also rare in this group.

Although the future risk from radiation in an elderly patient is probably low, the risk from the IV contrast needed to see the aorta or solid organs is significant in this group. And keep in mind the dangers of screening for a low probability diagnosis. You may find something that prompts invasive and potentially more dangerous investigations of something that may never have caused a problem!

I recommend selective scanning of the head and cervical spine (if not clinically clearable), and selective conventional imaging of any other suspicious areas. If additional detail of the thoracic and/or lumbar spine are needed, specific spine CT imaging should be used without contrast.

Related posts:

Reference: Pan-scanning for ground level falls in the elderly: really? ACS Surgical Forum, trauma abstracts, 2016.

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CT Crystal Ball – Part 3

And yet another one of these crystal ball abstracts, all presented at the same meeting of the American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress!

This one postulates that more injuries seen on CT scan might predict mortality in “older” trauma patients. Hmmm. The authors pulled info  on head CT findings, GCS, AIS Head, lengths of stay, death, functional scores, and discharge disposition. And the age had to be >45 years. Older? Hmmm.

A scoring tool was designed that gave 1 point each for subdural, epidural, subarachnoid, or intraparenchymal blood, cerebral contusion, skull fracture, brain edema/herniation, midline shift, and external trauma to the head/face. The score range was 0-8, even though there were 10 factors.

Lets look at the factoids:

  • Nearly 10 years of data were analyzed
  • 620 patients meeting criteria were identified
  • The scoring system positively correlated with all of the outcome measures
  • Independent predictors of mortality included GCS, AIS Head, and the CT score (odds ratio 1.3)
  • The CT test also “predicted” (author’s word) neursurgical intervention (odds ratio 1.2)

Bottom line: Oh boy, here we go again. Another correlation study, and a weak one at that. So if someone told you that an “older” patient (beginning after age 45) would do worse clinically the more injuries were seen in and around their head, what would you say? And why did it take 10 years of data to accumulate data on 620 patients in this age range (62 per year)? And why not test your scoring system prospectively? And run some really good statistics on the new data?  Sadly, I feel this is another run to submit an abstract and present at a meeting. But thankfully, I don’t think it will ever see the light of print.

Related posts:

Reference: Prognostication of traumatic brain injury outcomes in older trauma patients: a novel risk assessment tool based on initial cranial CT findings. ACS Scientific Forum, trauma abstracts, 2016.

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