To determine the utility of thoracic computed tomography (TCT) in the initial assessment of critically ill patients with chest injuries.
Prospective observational study of cohorts.
Trauma intensive care unit (ICU) of a Spanish Level III hospital (US equivalent: Level I).
Three hundred seventy-five patients with chest injuries were studied, grouped into two cohorts according to whether they underwent admission TCT (exposed cohort, group I, n = 104) or not (unexposed cohort, group II, n = 271).
Measurements and Main Results:
Demographic data, initial severity scores, and chest radiograph (CXR)-based diagnosis were collected in all patients as independent variables. In patients of group I, we also recorded the TCT-based diagnosis and any incidents, complications, or therapy changes resulting from the TCT. The need for and duration of mechanical ventilation, length of ICU stay, and ICU mortality were gathered in the whole sample as dependent variables. The admission data were similar in the two groups, except for a higher Injury Severity Score (ISS) and thoracic ISS in group I. TCT proved to be more sensitive than CXR in detecting pulmonary contusion, hemothorax, pneumothorax, and vertebral fractures and in identifying the faulty placement of chest drainage tubes. TCT findings induced therapy changes in ∼30% of patients in group I. In the other dependent variables studied, there were no differences between the two groups. In the multivariate analysis, the TCT screening had no effects on the time on mechanical ventilation, length of ICU stay, or mortality.
TCT detects more chest injuries in trauma patients than does CXR and induces therapy changes in a considerable number of patients. However, this does not translate into an improvement in clinical outcomes.