Blunt bowel and mesenteric trauma: role of clinical signs along with CT findings in patients’ management

Maria Cristina Firetto, Francesco Sala, Marcello Petrini, Alessandro A. Lemos, Tiberio Canini, Stefano Magnone, Gianluca Fornoni, Ivan Cortinovis, Sandro Sironi, Pietro R. Biondetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Bowel and/or mesentery injuries represent the third most common injury among patients with blunt abdominal trauma. Delayed diagnosis increases morbidity and mortality. The aim of our study was to evaluate the role of clinical signs along with CT findings as predictors of early surgical repair. Material and methods: Between March 2014 and February 2017, charts and CT scans of consecutive patients treated for blunt abdominal trauma in two different trauma centers were reread by two experienced radiologists. We included all adult patients who underwent contrast-enhanced CT of the abdomen and pelvis with CT findings of blunt bowel and/or mesenteric injury (BBMI). We divided CT findings into two groups: the first included three highly specific CT signs and the second included six less specific CT signs indicated as “minor CT findings.” The presence of abdominal guarding and/or abdominal pain was considered as “clinical signs.” Reference standards included surgically proven BBMI and clinical follow-up. Association was evaluated by the chi-square test. A logistic regression model was used to estimate odds ratio (OR) and confidence intervals (CI). Results: Thirty-four (4.1%) out of 831 patients who sustained blunt abdominal trauma had BBMI at CT. Twenty-one out of thirty-four patients (61.8%) underwent surgical repair; the remaining 13 were treated conservatively. Free fluid had a significant statistical association with surgery (p = 0.0044). The presence of three or more minor CT findings was statistically associated with surgery (OR = 8.1; 95% CI, 1.2–53.7). Abdominal guarding along with bowel wall discontinuity and extraluminal air had the highest positive predictive value (100 and 83.3%, respectively). Conclusion: In patients without solid organ injury (SOI), the presence of free fluid along with abdominal guarding and three or more “minor CT findings” is a significant predictor of early surgical repair. The association of bowel wall discontinuity with extraluminal air warrants exploratory laparotomy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)461-467
Number of pages7
JournalEmergency Radiology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Acute abdomen
  • Blunt abdominal trauma
  • Computed tomography
  • Mesenteric injury
  • Small-bowel injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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