Do all patients with left costal margin injuries require radiographic evaluation for intraabdominal injury?

James F Holmes Jr, Hien Ngyuen, Robert C. Jacoby, John P McGahan, Hormozd Bozorgchami, David H Wisner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Scopus citations


Study objective: We determine whether all patients with pain or tenderness to the left lower ribs after blunt traumatic injury require abdominal computed tomography (CT) scanning for the detection of splenic injury. Methods: This was a prospective, observational cohort of all blunt-trauma patients who had pain or tenderness to the left lower ribs and presented to the emergency department (ED) of a Level I trauma center. Patients were enrolled if they had a Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score greater than 13 and pain or tenderness to the left lower ribs (ribs 7 to 12). Patients with pain or tenderness to the left lower ribs were considered to have pleuritic pain if the pain increased with inspiration or cough. All hemodynamically stable patients underwent abdominal CT scanning for detection of intraabdominal injuries. Data forms collecting information on the medical history and physical examination of all patients were completed before radiographic imaging. Patients with left lower rib pain or tenderness were considered to have "isolated" left lower rib injury if they were without all of the following: ED or out-of-hospital systolic blood pressure less than 90 mm Hg, abdominal or flank tenderness, pelvic or femur fractures, and gross hematuria. Results: Eight hundred seventy-five patients had left lower rib pain or tenderness, 63 (7.2%; 95% confidence interval [CI] 5.6% to 9.1%) patients had splenic injuries, and 20 (2.3%; 95% CI 1.4% to 3.5%) patients had left renal injuries. Five hundred seventy-four patients had additional indications for abdominal imaging, leaving 301 patients with "isolated" left lower rib injury. Of the 301 patients, 9 (3.0%; 95% CI 1.4% to 5.6%) had splenic injuries. All 9 patients had a pleuritic component to their rib tenderness, and 3 (33%) patients underwent splenectomy. Conclusion: A small but important percentage of patients with pain or tenderness to the left lower ribs has splenic injuries. All patients with splenic injury had pleuritic pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)232-236
Number of pages5
JournalAnnals of Emergency Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2005


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine

Cite this