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September 1995

Penetrating Injuries of the Neck in Patients in Stable Condition: Physical Examination, Angiography, or Color Flow Doppler Imaging

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Surgery, University of Southern California School of Medicine, Los Angeles.

Arch Surg. 1995;130(9):971-975. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1995.01430090057019

Background:  The initial assessment of penetrating injuries of the neck is controversial, with angiography remaining the gold standard for identifying vascular injuries. Recent reports suggest that physical examination might be an accurate way to evaluate these injuries. Color flow Doppler imaging has been used with promising results to assess extremity injuries, but the role of color flow Doppler imaging in neck injuries has not been studied.

Objective:  To evaluate and compare the roles of physical examination, color flow Doppler imaging, and angiography in the identification and management of penetrating neck injuries.

Study Design:  A prospective study of patients in stable condition with penetrating injuries of the neck. All study patients were examined according to a written clinical protocol and subsequently underwent angiography and color flow Doppler imaging. The sensitivity and specificity of physical examination and color flow Doppler imaging were compared with those of angiography.

Results:  Eighty-two patients fulfilled the criteria for inclusion in the study. Angiography demonstrated vascular lesions in 11 patients (13.4%), but only two (2.4%) of them required treatment. Serious injuries were detected or suspected during physical examination, but six lesions not requiring treatment were missed. When injuries not requiring treatment were excluded, the sensitivity was 100% and the specificity was 91%. With color flow Doppler imaging, 10 of the 11 injuries were identified, for a sensitivity of 91% and a specificity of 98.6%. The sensitivity and specificity were 100% for clinically important lesions.

Conclusion:  The combination of a careful physical examination and color flow Doppler imaging provides a reliable way to assess penetrating neck trauma and may be a safe alternative to routine contrast angiography.(Arch Surg. 1995;130:971-975)

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