After experiencing blunt or penetrating trauma, patients in unstable condition who are more likely to die of uncorrected shock than of incomplete injury repairs undergo emergency limited exploratory laparotomy, which is also known as damage control surgery (DCS). This surgery is part of a series of resuscitation steps, with the goal of stabilizing the patient’s condition, with rapid surgical control of hemorrhage followed by supportive measures in the intensive care unit before definitive repair of injuries. These patients often are imaged with multidetector CT within 24–48 hours of the initial surgery. Knowledge of this treatment plan is critical to CT interpretation, because there are anatomic derangements and foreign bodies that would not be present in patients undergoing surgery for other reasons. Patients may have injuries beyond the surgical field that are only identified at imaging, which can alter the care plan. Abnormalities related to the resuscitation period such as the CT hypoperfusion complex and ongoing hemorrhage can be recognized at CT. Familiarity with these imaging and clinical findings is important, because they can be seen not only in trauma patients after DCS but also in other patients in the critical care setting. The interpretation of imaging studies can be helped by an understanding of the diagnostic challenges of grading organ injuries with surgical materials in place and the awareness of potential artifacts on images in these patients.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging