Original articles

FAST scanning in the developing world emergency department

Zoe Smith, Naas Postma, Darryl Wood


Objectives. To assess the utility of an existing ultrasound machine for the purposes of focused assessment sonography in trauma (FAST) scanning in a developing world emergency department (ED).
Design. Prospective study undertaken over a 12-month period. Trauma patients attending the ED were FAST scanned by one of three trained emergency medicine doctors.
Setting. The ED at a government hospital in rural KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), the referral centre for 22 peripheral hospitals.
Subjects. All patients presenting to the ED who had sustained abdominal or thoracic trauma.
Outcome measures. Scans were recorded as positive or negative for free intra-abdominal or pericardial fluid. All results were confirmed by computed tomography, laparotomy or a second trained ED ultrasonographer, followed by a period of clinical observation.
Results: 72 FAST scans were included, 52 for blunt trauma and 20 for penetrating trauma. Of the 72 scans, 15 (20.8%) were positive. FAST scanning had 100% specificity and overall sensitivity of 71.4%. When considering blunt trauma alone the sensitivity improved to 81.3%, while in penetrating trauma it was much poorer (62.5%).
Conclusions. We propose a valuable role for FAST scanning in all peripheral hospitals for the assessment of patients sustaining blunt trauma. In rural areas with limited resources FAST scans may assist in the appropriate timely transfer of trauma patients for further imaging or definitive surgical intervention.

Authors' affiliations

Zoe Smith,

Naas Postma,

Darryl Wood, University of Cape Town

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FAST, Ultrasound, Emergency, Blunt Trauma, Penetrating

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2010;100(2):105-108.

Article History

Date submitted: 2009-10-07
Date published: 2010-01-29

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