The ability of abdominal ultrasound to detect intraperitoneal fluid in the pregnant trauma patient has been questioned.
Pregnant blunt trauma patients admitted to a Level I trauma center during an 8-year period were reviewed. Ultrasound examinations were used to detect intraperitoneal fluid and considered positive if such fluid was identified.
One hundred twenty-seven (61%) of 208 pregnant patients had abdominal ultrasound during initial evaluation in the emergency department. Seven patients had intra-abdominal injuries, and six had documented hemoperitoneum. Ultrasound identified intraperitoneal fluid in five of these six patients (sensitivity, 83%; 95% confidence interval, 36–100%). In the 120 patients without intra-abdominal injury, ultrasound was negative in 117 (specificity, 98%; 95% confidence interval, 93–100%). The three patients without intra-abdominal injury but with a positive ultrasound had the following: serous intraperitoneal fluid and no injuries at laparotomy (one) and uneventful clinical courses of observation (two).
The sensitivity and specificity of abdominal ultrasonography in pregnant trauma patients is similar to that seen in nonpregnant patients. Occasional false negatives occur and a negative initial examination should not be used as conclusive evidence that intra-abdominal injury is not present. Ultrasound has the advantages of no radiation exposure.