Trauma and Mobile Imaging

Trauma and Mobile Imaging

Mobile or portable imaging procedures are performed on patients who cannot be transported to the imaging department because of a serious injury, illness, or condition. Therefore, many patients are imaged with the use of mobile radiography equipment in the emergency department; in intensive care, coronary care, neonatal intensive care units; in special care rooms; in the patient’s room; or in the operating rooms (Fig. 10-1).

The trauma patient may be strapped to a backboard with a cervical collar and splints in place. These patients commonly have oxygen, intravenous (IV) tubing, and life support equipment when the radiographer is to perform trauma or mobile radiography procedures. Because these patients cannot be transported to radiology, the radiographer must adapt his skills to achieve diagnostic images according to the patient’s condition and needs. Specifically, a radiographer must adapt positioning and technical considerations (the central ray, image receptor, and exposure factors) during the course of performing trauma and mobile radiography. In addition, the radiographer
must analyze each patient situation in relation to the procedures requested by the physician, while at the same time keeping in mind general radiation protection measures. Preplanning is essential for achieving diagnostic outcome images under trauma or mobile circumstances. This chapter introduces additional information that is needed in trauma and mobile radiography.

FIGURE 10-1 (A) Setting up for a portable anterior-posterior (AP) chest semi-erect. (B) Setting up for a portable AP abdomen. (C) AP supine radiographic image of the abdomen.


Traumatic injuries are caused by external force or violence (Fig. 10-2). Injury (trauma) is the leading cause of death among all persons under the age of 44. The injuries may be the result of:

  • Motor vehicle accidents

  • Pedestrian accidents

  • Motorcycle accidents

  • Falls from heights

  • Assaults (stabbings and gunshot wounds)

  • Blunt trauma

  • Choking

  • Industrial accidents

  • Suicides

  • Drowning

  • Smoke inhalation

  • Sports injuries

The trauma patient presents a wide variety of challenges for the radiographer. The nature of the injury to the patient and the patient’s condition require the radiographer to use critical thinking and judgment of a knowledgeable radiographer. Technical knowledge combined with the ability to adapt creatively is required to provide the physician(s) with the necessary diagnostic information to treat the patient. In some cases, trauma radiographs are obtained rapidly to screen for life-threatening injuries.

FIGURE 10-2 Traumatic injury caused by external force.

The radiographer is one of the first members of the health care team to see the patient once the patient is admitted to the emergency room after traumatic injury or acute illness (Display 10-1). Trauma patients can have a single injury or multiple injuries. When the radiographer is called to the emergency room to perform diagnostic radiographic images, they must assume that they will be exposed to the patient’s blood or body fluids. To avoid infecting oneself or the patient, always maintain standard precautions by having clean disposable gloves available before beginning the procedure. One must wear
the appropriate personal protective equipment that may include gloves, mask, goggles, a protective gown, and a lead or lead equivalent apron when caring for a patient who is hemorrhaging or who is nauseated and vomiting. If it is necessary to touch an open wound, wear sterile gloves. In addition, the image receptor must be protected with an impermeable covering or bag.

Many patients admitted to the emergency room are in severe pain. Depending on a patient’s injuries, the radiographer will be required to assist in diagnosing the extent of injuries or illness by taking a series of images. This requires patience and skill. The radiographer will need to accomplish the procedure without extending present injuries or increasing the patient’s discomfort. Usually, time for achieving the goal is brief because the patient’s life is at risk. In trauma radiography, general radiation safety measures must be combined with speed and accuracy.

If the injured or acutely ill patient is transferred from the emergency room to the diagnostic imaging department for images, the radiographer must observe the patient for symptoms of shock. The radiographer assesses the patient’s neurologic status and level of consciousness before beginning any procedure, and then reassesses every 5 to 10 minutes while the patient is in the department. If any changes in the patient’s condition are observed, the physician and the emergency team are quickly alerted, and the radiographer prepares to assist with emergency measures, as outlined in Chapter 9.

Basic Rules for Trauma Radiography

The following are the basic rules for trauma radiography:

  • Assess the situation and develop an action plan for the imaging procedure.

  • Verify the patient’s identification with two patient identifiers.

  • Verify the x-ray examination with the physicians order.

  • Introduce yourself to the patient.

  • Determine patient mobility, and explain the procedure to the patient.

  • Predetermine equipment and accessories needed for the procedure (Display 10-2).

  • Announce “x-ray” before making an exposure to allow personnel to leave the area for mobile procedures.

  • Take at least two radiographs at 90° to one another for each body part (Fig. 10-3).

    FIGURE 10-3 (A) Trauma lateral right ankle. (B) Second projection 90° from lateral ankle.

  • Make sure that the central ray and image receptor alignment approaches routine positioning applications, adapting to the patient’s condition.

  • Include all anatomy of interest.

  • For long-bone radiography, include both the joints; two exposures may be required with overlap (1.5 to 2 inches) to ensure that the entire bone is included.

  • Provide radiation safety protective apparel for anyone who needs to be in the room caring for the injured patient.

A cooperative environment with all personnel involved in the emergency procedure will facilitate the proper care of the patient.


Injuries to the head are exceedingly common. Each year approximately 10 million head injuries are predicted to occur in the United States. The term “head injury” may refer to any injury of the skull, brain, or both that requires medical attention. Radiographers are not called as often as in past years to perform radiographic images because of the availability and effectiveness of computed tomography (CT), which allows the physicians to diagnose head injuries (Fig. 10-4). All head injuries are potentially serious because they may involve the brain, which is the seat of consciousness and controls every human action.

The two basic types of head injury are open and closed. With an open injury to the skull or meninges, the brain is vulnerable to damage and infection because its protective casing has been broken. If the injury is closed
(also called a blunt injury), the brain tissue may swell. The swelling is limited by the confines of the skull, and the resulting pressure may cause extensive brain damage. The brain has little healing power, so any injury to it must be considered potentially permanent and serious.

FIGURE 10-4 CT image for head trauma.

Fractures at the base of the skull (basal skull fractures) often have accompanying fractures of the facial bones. This type of injury may result in a tear in the dura mater, the outer membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord, and a leakage of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) may result.

Consider all patients with head injuries to have accompanying cervical spinal injuries until it is medically disproved. Take precautions to alleviate potential extension of these injuries as a matter of routine. It is vital for the radiographer to be knowledgeable in understanding the signs and symptoms of patients with a variety of injuries. It is important to report any observable changes in the patient’s status to the emergency physician and/or team.

Clinical Manifestations of Head Injury

Closed Injury

  • Varying levels of consciousness, ranging from drowsiness, confusion, irritability, and stupor to coma

  • Lucid periods followed by periods of unconsciousness are possible

  • Loss of reflexes

  • Changes in vital signs

  • Headache, visual disturbances, dizziness, and giddiness

  • Gait abnormalities

  • Unequal pupil dilation

  • Seizures, vomiting, and hemiparesis

Open Injury

  • Abrasions, contusions, or lacerations apparent on the skull

  • A break or penetration in the skull or meninges apparent by inspection or on radiographic images

  • Basal fractures resulting in leakage of CSF, as demonstrated by leakage of blood on the sheet or dressing surrounded by a yellowish stain (the halo sign); CSF may leak from the nose or ears or as a postnasal drip

  • Varying levels of consciousness

  • Subconjunctival hemorrhage

  • Hearing loss

  • Periorbital ecchymosis (raccoon eyes)

  • Facial nerve play

Radiographer’s Response

1. Keep the patient’s head and neck immobilized until the physician rules out injury to the spinal cord.

2. If possible, elevate the patient’s head 15° to 30°.

3. Do not remove sandbags, collars, or dressings. Take all radiographic images with these in place.

4. Do not flex the patient’s neck or turn it to either side. Rotation of the head may increase intracranial pressure.

5. Keep the patient’s body temperature as normal as possible. Do not allow the patient to become chilled or overheated.

Only gold members can continue reading. Log In or Register to continue

May 8, 2019 | Posted by in GENERAL RADIOLOGY | Comments Off on Trauma and Mobile Imaging
Premium Wordpress Themes by UFO Themes