To determine if ultrasonography is useful in evaluating penetrating injuries of the trunk to assess whether violation of the peritoneum or pleura has occurred.
The study group was 29 patients who suffered gunshot (n=17), stab (n=10), or shotgun (n=2) wounds. The abdomen was at risk in 21 injuries, the thorax in eight. The results of physical examination and plain x-rays suggested the pleura and or peritoneum might be intact in all patients. Using a 7-MHZ transducer, wound tract(s) were imaged, looking for the presence of soft-tissue air and/or echolucent areas consistent with soft-tissue blood. Injuries were deemed extraperitoneal or extrapleural if (1) the entire tract was visualized; (2) it appeared superficial to the deepest fascial structure in that area; and (3) in shotgun injuries, all visible pellets on x-ray films were identified by ultrasound in the abdominal wall.
Evidence of penetration occurred in four abdominal wounds and one thoracic wound. These were confirmed by operation in the abdominal cases and by subsequent chest x-ray examination in the one thoracic wound. The diagnosis of nonpenetration was confirmed in all the remainder by serial benign abdominal examination (n=15), chest x-ray examination (n=8), and laparoscopy (n=1). Positive and negative predictive accuracy were thus 100% in this pilot series.
Ultrasonographic exploration of penetrating truncal injuries is feasible and accurate. Ultrasonographic wound exploration may serve as a noninvasive and safe replacement for diagnostic laparoscopy, conventional local wound exploration, peritoneal lavage, and 6-hour chest x-rays (repeated chest x-rays taken 6 hours after initial chest x-ray examination). If used as part of the initial physical examination, cost-effectiveness can also be realized.(Arch Surg. 1995;130:605-608)