Blunt trauma to the gastrointestinal tract and mesentery: Is there a role for helical CT in the decision-making process?

Mariano Scaglione, Elisabetta De Lutio Di Castelguidone, Michele Scialpi, Stefanella Merola, Andrea Irma Diettrich, Patrizia Lombardo, Luigia Romano, Roberto Grassi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The CT diagnosis of bowel and mesenteric injuries is difficult and warrants optimal technique and skilled interpretation. We retrospectively reviewed 36 consecutive patients with blunt traumatic injuries to the bowel and mesentery at our regional level I trauma center during the past 3 years. Physical examination, laboratory, Computed tomographic (CT), and intraoperative findings were compared. Surgically proven bowel injuries (13 cases) occurred in the duodenum (three cases), ileum (two cases), jejunum (two cases), colon (three cases), and stomach (three cases). CT findings considered specific of bowel rupture were observed in 5/13 patients including: extraluminal oral contrast or luminal content extravasation (four cases) and discontinuity of hollow viscus wall (one case). In the remaining 8/13 CT findings considered suggestive of bowel injury consisted of: pneumoperitoneum (six), gas bubbles close to the injured hollow viscus (three), thickened (>4-5mm) bowel wall (five), bowel wall hematoma (three), intraperitoneal fluid of unknown source (three). Mesenteric injury (23 cases) were surgically observed at the level of the mesenteric vessels (17 cases), legament of Treitz (two cases), gastro-duodenal artery (one case), transverse (one case) and sigmoid mesocolon (one case). CT finding considered specific of mesenteric laceration was active extravasation of contrast material from the mesenteric vessels (10 cases). CT findings suggestive of mesenteric injury (13 cases) consisted of: mesenteric hematoma (five) and/or high attenuation fluid collections, within the mesenteric root (eight) and folds (four). Helical CT is sensitive in the identification of bowel and mesenteric injury after blunt trauma providing a wide spectrum of findings. However, CT cannot be used as the sole indicator in cases with isolated thichened bowel wall, mesenteric hematoma, bowel hematoma, pneumoperitoneum or gas bubbles. Persistent, active extravasation of intravenous constrast medium from the mesenteric vessels, in isolation or associated with further injuries, requires immediate exploration and repair; disruption of bowel wall and extravasation of oral contrast are definite signs of bowel rupture. Close clinical observation, monitoring, and surgical expertise are mandatory for appropriate management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-73
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Radiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2004


  • Bowel, mesentery, CT
  • Bowel, mesentery, injury
  • Bowel, mesentery, management
  • Bowel, mesentery, trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging

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