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Anterior-posterior and lateral radiographs of the abdomen and pelvis
CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis with contrast
Diagnostic peritoneal lavage
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This patient with hemodynamic instability and abdominal bruising after a high speed motorcycle crash likely has shock secondary to blood loss. The first step in management of patients with blunt trauma and hemodynamic instability is a focused assessment with sonography for trauma (FAST exam)For any patient with blunt or penetrating trauma, the first step in management is an evaluation of airway, breathing, and circulation. This is referred to as the primary survey and includes the verification of endotracheal tube placement, auscultation of bilateral breath sounds, and assessment of external wounds or bleeding. This is followed by the secondary survey which involves a detailed head to toe inspection for injuries. Blunt abdominal trauma with bruising as well as hemodynamic instability warrants a FAST exam. The FAST exam visualizes the heart chambers and pericardium, left upper quadrant (spleen, splenorenal recess), right upper quadrant (Morrison pouch) and the rectovesical (males) or rectouterine (females) pouch. The extended FAST exam (eFAST) includes an examination of the lungs as well to assess for pneumothorax or hemothorax. Hemodynamically unstable patients with free fluid identified in the abdomen on initial FAST exam should proceed directly to the operating room for emergent surgical intervention with ongoing volume resuscitation. Patients with hemodynamic instability and a negative FAST exam should be evaluated for sources of bleeding elsewhere such as the pelvis.Barloon et al. review diagnostic imaging in the evaluation of blunt abdominal trauma. Blunt abdominal trauma is a common cause of death and injury, leading to hemodynamic instability. Intra-abdominal imaging is especially important in comatose or sedated (intubated) patients who are unable to provide a history or provide a reliable physical examination. In stable patients, CT of the abdomen often has a role in deciding whether to pursue observation versus surgical intervention.Stengel et al. evaluate emergency ultrasound-based algorithms for diagnosing blunt abdominal trauma. The systematic review showed that ultrasound-based pathways reduced the number of CT scans obtained. Use of ultrasound can enhance the speed of the primary assessment and cut costs. However, the authors conclude that there is insufficient evidence to promote justification of ultrasound-based pathways for the evaluation of blunt abdominal trauma in terms of patient outcomes. Incorrect Answers:Answer 1: AP and lateral radiographs of the abdomen and pelvis may be useful for identifying pelvic fracture or intraperitoneal free air. However, this patient's presentation is suggestive of abdominal trauma warranting FAST exam. Answer 2: CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis with contrast would be appropriate for evaluation of blunt abdominal trauma in a patient that is hemodynamically stable. However, this patient's vital signs indicate hemodynamic instability.Answer 3: Diagnostic peritoneal lavage is no longer commonly used in the evaluation of blunt abdominal trauma.Answer 5: Norepinephrine infusion would not be appropriate for this patient with shock secondary to blood loss. Resuscitation for this patient should be achieved with transfusion of blood products.Bullet Summary:The most appropriate initial step in management for hemodynamically unstable patience with blunt abdominal trauma is a FAST exam.
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