Utilization of torso computed tomography for the evaluation of ground level falls: More imaging does not equal better care

Published:November 28, 2022DOI:



      Computed tomography (CT) of the chest (CTC), abdomen, and pelvis (CTAP) is common when assessing trauma patients in the emergency department. However, unnecessary imaging can expose patients to unneeded radiation and increase healthcare costs. Here, we characterize the use of torso CT imaging for the evaluation of ground level falls (GLF) at a single level 1 trauma center.

      Patients and methods

      We conducted a retrospective review of all patients ≥18 years old presenting to a single level 1 trauma center with a GLF (1m or less) in 2015-2019. Data were obtained through chart review. Descriptive statistics were used to summarize patient characteristics. Multivariable logistic regression was used to assess factors leading to patients obtaining torso CT imaging. The utility of CT imaging in identifying injuries that changed management was also evaluated.


      Of the 1,195 patients captured during the study period, 492 patients had a positive torso physical exam (PE), and 703 had a negative torso PE. Of patients with a negative torso PE, 127 CTC and 142 CTAP were obtained, with only 5.5% CTC identifying traumatic injuries not previously diagnosed on chest radiograph (CXR), and only 0.7% CTAP identifying new injuries not identified on pelvic radiograph (PXR). Multivariable logistic regression demonstrated that only a positive PE was significantly associated with the identification of abnormal imaging findings on torso CT. A negative PE, CXR, and PXR have a negative predictive value of 98%.


      These data suggest that patients with a negative PE, even if intoxicated, intubated, or with a decreased GCS, are highly unlikely to have new, clinically relevant findings on torso CT imaging.


      Using PE, CXR, and PXR as a screening tool in patients sustaining GLF, which if negative close to obviates the need for torso CT, may reduce healthcare costs and radiation exposure without compromising patient care.


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