CT angiograms of the neck in strangulation victims: incidence of positive findings at a level one trauma center over a 7-year period

Abstract

Purpose

To determine the incidence of acute findings diagnosed with computed tomography angiography (CTA) of the neck among emergency department patients presenting with strangulation injury.

Method and materials

This institutional review board-approved, HIPAA-compliant retrospective review was performed at our academic urban level 1 trauma center. The PACS database was queried for all consecutive patients who had CTAs of the neck performed for the exam indication of strangulation between January 1, 2009, and April 30, 2016, resulting in 142 included patients. Analysis of the individual cases was then performed, recording any positive results, with clinical findings classified using, when possible, standardized terminology found in the literature. Frequency of acute injury in the CTA neck examinations was determined with the calculation of 95% confidence interval (CI) and positive clinical findings were evaluated by calculation of prevalence. Additionally, two board certified radiologists with training in neuroradiology assessed the cases for vascular injury.

Results

There were 142 patients who met inclusion criteria (average age, 32.6 years) and 116 (81.7%) patients were female. CTA of the neck revealed 21 patients to have acute injuries (15.5%, 95% CI 9.5, 21.4) including 6 initially reported vascular injuries (4.2%, 95% CI 0.9, 7.5). Although neck pain (73, 51.4%), loss of consciousness (67, 47.2%), and headache (31, 21.8%) were frequently reported in the ROS, their predictive value of vascular injury was weak (4.1%, 4.5%, and 3.2%, respectively). On physical exam, redness/bruising of the neck (73, 51.4%) and neck tenderness (47, 33.1%) were both the most common and had the highest prevalence (19.2% and 12.8%, respectively), however, when selecting for vascular injuries alone were found to have low predictive yield (vascular injury 4.1% and 2.1%, respectively). The above statistics were based on the initial radiologist report and Emergency Department findings. After retrospective review, 3 Grade 1 BIFFL vascular injuries were identified (2.1%), with one false negative case (0.7%).

Conclusion

Performing CTA of the neck after acute strangulation injury rarely identifies clinically significant findings, with vascular injuries proving exceedingly rare. As positive vascular injury could not be clinically predicted by history and physical examination, prospective validation of a clinical prediction rule in this population is warranted.

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Change history

  • 24 June 2020

    The original source of the flowchart in Fig. 3 has not been referenced and acknowledged correctly in the original article. This is now corrected.

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Correspondence to Omar Safi Zuberi.

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Zuberi, O.S., Dixon, T., Richardson, A. et al. CT angiograms of the neck in strangulation victims: incidence of positive findings at a level one trauma center over a 7-year period. Emerg Radiol 26, 485–492 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10140-019-01690-3

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Keywords

  • CTA
  • Angiogram
  • Strangulation
  • Strangled
  • Vascular injury
  • Trauma